I can tell you exactly when Jesus was finishing off these instructions to the disciples. It was 8pm and it was a Thursday. Jesus was stood outside the front door at the time, applauding the key workers. All those unsung heroes who either get no mention at all – or you hear part of their story and not what happens next.
So, in these 3 verses (Matthew 10:40-42) it’s not about Peter and the rest of the disciples. Not even about headliners like Paul, who would follow later. No, it’s about the others. Those who make things tick, those who work in the background. But without them, Christianity wouldn’t have spread in the way that it did.
Today is about the roadies and the caterers, the press agents, the financiers and the support acts to those who get the top billing. Without which, none of this would be possible.
Here’s to those people at church who brew-up or welcome on the door. The people who arrange flowers or host Bible Studies, do the garden and manage the hall. Those who make sure we have the bread and the wine. Those who hoover the carpets and manage the sound system. Because without you, the people at the front couldn’t do what they do.
And Jesus says to you here that what you do is just as important. So, let’s have a look.
For Christ’s word to spread it needed missionaries and evangelists. And most of Matthew 10 is Jesus ‘how to’ guide on how best to go about doing that. We heard a bit of it in last week message. At times that could be hard going – and there are some wonderful verses in this chapter to inspire and support.
And Jesus expected them to go and take nothing with them. No food, or extra clothing, or money. They were totally dependent on the generosity and hospitality of others. They were completely vulnerable.
But it wasn’t just those the 12 disciples who went out. The Orthodox Church believes that the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well, later went as a missionary to what we now call Tunisia. They name her Photine, ‘the enlightened one’. And according to the early church, Zacchaeus the tax collector became the first Bishop of Caesarea. These are the untold stories of ‘what happened next’.
If you think about the New Testament, there are lots of names other than the Apostles who get a mention. From the humble to the powerful, but all critical to the spread of the Gospel.
There’s Simon the Tanner, who opened his home in Jaffa to Peter. Tanners weren’t part of polite society because they handled dead animals. But Simon gave Peter shelter and food. He provided a base from which to operate.
Priscilla and Aquilla, shared the same trade as Paul. They earnt a living with their hands, preached, taught and travelled with Paul – and opened their home up as a house church.
Then there’s Lydia, who was a merchant in cloth. The first convert in Europe. She too hosted a church in her home. Think of how word would have spread amongst her fellow merchants. Or Phoebe, a woman of means, who financially supported Paul and helped in the work of the church. She was sent by Paul to be his emissary to Rome, possibly delivering his Letter to the Romans.
Then there’s Cornelius, a Roman Centurion and the Ethiopian Eunuch who was treasurer to the Queen. And Sergius Paulus, proconsul in Cyprus. Sergius went back to Rome and became a Senator. Imagine all the high-powered connections that those 3 individuals had in their respective worlds. How that must have helped in the Gospel reaching out.
Establishing the good news
Workers, merchants, military & politicians. It was all of these, along with Peter, Paul & the rest, who helped establish the good news. Without places to stay & financial support, the missionaries would soon have been destitute. Without an audience to hear the message, the word would have gone nowhere.
And in our Gospel, Jesus says this: “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”. We don’t just entertain angels unawares. We welcome God! Think about that next time you’re on the door at church or hosting a Bible Study.
“Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward”. It seems your welcome to the minister is just as important as what the ministers themselves do. But there’s something here too about recognising and acknowledging each other’s gifts. “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet”, “whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person”. How intently do we look at others and consider what they bring? Do we look for and see the Christ in each other?
Even a cup of cold water
And then Jesus says: “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward”. Those tiny acts of kindness are important. You may think that you have little to give and you might dismiss its importance. But in God’s economy these things have a greater value than we can possibly imagine.
But there’s a responsibility on us too. Because we need to offer that welcome and we need to give that cup of water, for the kingdom of God to spread.
So, here’s to all you key workers in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus himself applauds you. Amen
“Jesus applauding the key workers” was delivered by Ian Banks to St Zooms on Sunday 28th June 2020. It was based on Matthew 10:40-42. St Zooms is formed from congregations across Bury, Heywood and Rochdale. For a prayer for Key Workers, using widgets, please follow this link.
- For the woman at the well going to Carthage then being martyred in Rome, https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/2020/03/20/100846-martyr-photina-the-samaritan-woman-her-sons-and-those-with-them
- For Zacchaeus being the first Bishop of Caesarea, see the ‘Apostolic Constitutions’. Cornelius is recorded as the second Bishop of Caesarea. https://ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07/anf07.ix.viii.iv.html
- To get more on Lydia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lydia_of_Thyatira
- For Phoebe, https://www.cbeinternational.org/sites/default/files/What_Miller.pdf
- For Cornelius, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_the_Centurion
- The Ethiopian Eunuch was named as Simeon Bachos by Church Father St. Irenaeus of Lyons in his book Adversus haereses and supposedly preached throughout Ethiopia.
- For Sergius Paulus, https://biblearchaeologyreport.com/2019/11/15/sergius-paulus-an-archaeological-biography/ This really interesting article also raises the possibility that Sergius Paulus adopted Paul and hence his name change from Saul to Paul…