“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Matthew 10:40
Me, you, the one who sent me: what do we learn from the words used by Jesus in the Gospel reading?
In Saint Matthew 10 Verse 40, Jesus says, “welcomes me”, he is saying that his mission is about himself, his mission is to be himself. He has not come as a representative of a religion, he has not come as part of an organization, he has not come as part of a group, he has simply come to be himself. Jesus’ mission is about himself and the work he is going to do.
When we think about our faith and we think about the church, those words “welcomes me” are important. Being a Christian is not about a religion, it is about a relationship. Christianity is not about the church, it is about the person who should be at the heart of any church. When we think about our own faith, what is it we believe in? Is our faith in Jesus? Is he the one whom we welcome? Or is it, too often the case, that our faith is about the church, or tradition to which we belong, or community in which we live? “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple,” says Jesus, the relationship with him is meant to overspill into our relationships with those around us. If we don’t care for them, then we have no care for him. In the coming week, how readily will we see the opportunity to care for other people as an opportunity to care for Jesus’ himself?
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me,” Jesus’ ministry has not been about a religion, but has been about people who have a relationship with him, we see how important to Jesus that relationship has been in the words he uses. Whatever is done for them, is done for him, there is a personal connection between them that is so strong that he can sense the way in which they are treated, he can feel the hurts that they feel, he can know the joys that they know
What does Jesus’close connection with his disciples say to us about our own faith? Do we have a sense that something done for us is something done for him? Do we have a sense that something done for him can be something that is done for us? Jesus’ words present us with a picture of God very different from the terrifying figure from the days of Moses, he points to a God with feelings, a God with compassion, a God who understands what it is like to be human.
“Whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me,” this would have been a strange idea for those listening to Jesus. In the book of Genesis, Abraham welcomes angels without realising who his guests are, but the idea of God being welcomed would have been alien to the traditional religion of Jesus’ followers. The only place where God might be approached was in the most sacred part of the Temple in Jerusalem, in the holy of holies, and the high priest was the only person who might approach the place where the people believed God’s presence was to be found. The Temple was at the heart of the whole religion; for some people listening, Jesus’ words that welcoming him meant welcoming God would not have just been strange, they would have been a contradiction of everything they believed.
In our own faith we are sometimes like the people of Jesus’ time, we think of God as being the sort of God that is found in the Temple. We do a subconscious split between Jesus and the one who sent him, between the Father and the Son and we lose a sense of the reality of both. it is because we allow that division that the Father becomes a remote and distant God in a far off heaven, a terrifying deity who may only be approached with fear and trembling, while the Son becomes the man in the Bible stories, the man who walked in Galilee twenty centuries ago, but not someone who could be present or powerful in our lives. Holding on to the idea that Jesus shares, “whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me,” means that we see Father and Son in the way they are connected with each other and the way in which they are connected with us.
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Me, you, the one who sent me; Jesus, the disciples, God; Jesus and us, the disciples and us, God and us..