(Jesus said to his apostles:) “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 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. And 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.”
Jesus tells his apostles that whoever welcomes them actually welcomes him. The apostles effectively serve as Jesus’ ambassadors, representing Christ as they go out with his message of salvation. Those of us who go out today in the name of Christ are also, as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians, Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Some people will welcome us, others will not. Those who welcome us will receive a reward.
Let us look at this passage from the point of view of those who welcome the ambassadors of Christ, rather than the ambassadors themselves, because most of us fall in the former category. When we welcome prophets — people who proclaim the word of God — we receive a prophet’s reward. A prophet’s reward is the reward the prophet would get for fulfilling God’s mission. So, those of us who welcome such “prophets” share in his blessings. It is implicit that the welcome is not just opening the doors of our homes to the prophet, but our hearts to him as well. However, even opening the doors of our homes brings rewards, because Jesus says that any hospitality extended to the people of God — even offering a glass of water — brings rewards. How much more if we extend more!
So when do we receive these rewards and what are they? We might receive some rewards in this life, typically in the form of spiritual blessings, but most of them are reserved for the life to come. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done” (Matthew 16:27). Some of the rewards are crowns of recognition we obtain for the way we lived our lives on this earth.
There are five crowns mentioned in the New Testament: The Crown of Victory, the Crown of Rejoicing, the Crown of Righteousness, the Crown of Glory, and the Crown of Life. I gave a talk on these crowns and if you want to know which ones you can expect to receive, or work your way towards obtaining them, do watch it. You’ll find a link on my website. Before you ask the question, we cannot earn salvation — that’s a free gift that comes from faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9) — but we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works (see Ephesians 2:10), and these rewards are for that.
May you receive many rewards, dear friend. And may the Spirit be with you.