Matthew 10:39-41. The Rewards of Hospitality
Matthew 10:40- 42. At this point in chapter ten, Jesus connects the apostles to another group of people, the prophets of the Old Testament. Much of the time, we tend to think of everything in the New Testament as being completely new, and in some way unrelated to Israel’s past. Of course, this is not the case. Jesus, Himself is seen as the fulfillment of a prophecy by Moses – that another prophet would come who would be like him (Deut. 18:15).
Again, just as John the Baptist was the prophet of the desert who most resembled Elijah (Matt. 17:10-13), the Old Testament prophet who Jesus resembled most in the way He lived was Elisha. Elisha came directly after Elijah, and he ministered in the cities and villages of Israel rather than the wilderness, just as Jesus would. Elisha multiplied food when it was in short supply and raised the dead, just as Jesus would. While Jesus isn’t exactly quoting Scripture in these verses, it is easy to see that Elisha may have been in His thoughts.
In 2 Kings 4:8-17, a woman from the Israelite town of Shunem was particularly kind to Elisha, and she and her husband offered Elisha a room to stay in whenever he was in the area. In Matthew 8:14 the Master was staying in Peter’s house in Capernaum at the dawn of His ministry, and in Luke 10:38, He was invited to stay in Martha’s house in Bethany, where we would also encounter Martha’s sister Mary and her brother Lazarus (John 11). In appreciation for the kindness of the Shunammite woman and her husband, Elisha prayed and the barren couple were granted a child. There are other examples that could be culled from the Old Testament, but this one from the life of Elisha fits the Gospel passage here beautifully.
By welcoming Elisha, the Shunammite woman was honoring the God who had sent him. This would remain the case in the ministry of Jesus and the Twelve. Receiving “a prophet in the name of a prophet”in Matt. 10:40 relates to Christ and His men on a more human level. The apostles were not traveling and preaching in their own names, but in the name of their teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. Whoever offered them hospitality were offering their kindness to Christ and the One who sent Him. There are blessings related to being kind to the ones the Lord has permitted to cross our paths.
Perhaps this teaching of Jesus inspired the prophets of the New Testament (Acts 13:1). Before the formal development of local Christian ministries such as bishops, elders/priests, and deacons (Titus 1:5-7, Phil. 1:1), churches were taught by traveling prophets and people informally referred to as apostles. An early manual for Jewish believers in Jesus, the non-biblical Didache, advises people to be kind and hospitable, but it also warns them not to let themselves be taken advantage of by some of these people. If these traveling ministers taught false doctrines or were greedy, they were considered false prophets (Didache, 11).
While we may be disappointed in some of the people who claim to be servants of God, Jesus still recommends hospitality and kindness.
“The Didache,” Riddle. M.B., tr., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Roberts, Alexander, Donaldson, James, and Coxe, A. Cleveland, eds., Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm.