Lectionary Reflection—02 July 2017
“Those who receive you are also receiving me, and those who receive me are receiving the one who sent me. 41 Those who receive a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Those who receive a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 I assure you that everybody who gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because they’re my disciples will certainly be rewarded.”
Today’s lesson is the last bit of teaching that’s been directed specifically to the twelve. The chapter starts out with Jesus calling the twelve, giving them authority over “unclean spirits” and to heal “every disease and sickness” (verse 1), and sending them out to “the people of Israel” (verse 6). He then teaches them some things before they leave. The pronoun “you” is used over 30 times throughout this chapter. In the passages proceeding today’s lesson, Jesus warns them that they will be persecuted and arrested, tortured and killed, and all at the instigation of members of their own families. So, that’s the bad news.
The good news for the twelve is the passage today. The good news is that some people will help them. And when those people help them, they’re also helping Christ and “the one who sent” Christ (verse 40).
As you can see, the image breaks down rather quickly. But that’s the limitation of imagery. It can only capture part of what we’re trying to explain or convey. But I think you get the point.
When Jesus told the twelve, “those who receive you are also receiving and the one who sent me,” he’s revealing something that seems to be a way of understanding for him; his worldview, if you will. His prayer in John’s gospel looks very similar:
I pray they’ll be one, Father, just as you’re in me and I’m in you. I pray that they’ll also be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. 22 I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. 23 I’m in them and you’re in me so that they’ll be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you’ve loved them just as you loved me (John 17.21-23; adapted; cf. verse 11; 1 Corinthians 6.17).
This worldview is contagious. Saint Paul wrote that followers of Jesus are all part of the same “body”—“we’re one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other” (Romans 12.5). Paul fleshes this out (forgive the pun) in his “first” letter1 to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12.12ff). Starting at verse 12, Paul compares people who’ve placed their trust in Christ to a body. He states that, “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink” (verse 13). This is crucial, not only for Paul’s time when there was such a great division between Jews and non-Jews, but also in our time when we have so much division today. And I can empathize with this division. It’s hard for me to grasp how someone can claim to follow Christ but at the same time claim violence is the best solution for our problems. But Paul’s point here is that there shouldn’t be a division—we should recognize, like Christ said, we’re all one. We all belong to each other. And if one of us suffers, we all suffer together (12.26).
Think about that for a moment. People are joined together by an eternal bond of humanness. We all want peace and safety. We all want healthy families. We all want to have a good life for us and our children. Even “those people” who’ve been deemed our enemies (for whatever reason) want the same things. And we’re told to love even them (Matthew 5.43-48; Luke 6.27-36). In fact, what we do or don’t do for even our enemies we do or don’t to Christ (Matthew 25.40, 45).
So this connection is deep and mysterious on the one hand and simple biology on the other. We’re all connected, all one, because of our humanness. And, when we receive each other, we receive Christ and the One who sent him.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
1. See 1 Corinthians 5.9.