Mission Trip Guidelines from Jesus: Reflections on Matthew 10:40-42
Comfort and Challenge
Matthew 10:40-42 is Jesus' comfort to the missionaries, and challenge to those at home and on location. To the missionaries: You will not come home sunburned, with blisters, and dehydrated if people minister to your basic needs while you are away.
To those who would receive them, comes this challenge. Missionaries, prophets, and righteous people receive a reward for their faithfulness, the joy of serving Christ, of finding their lives by sacrificing lesser priorities and possessions. You will share in that reward if you receive them because of (in the name of) the urgency of their mission and the identity of their team leader (Jesus). (Senior, 122) The verb "receive" can indicate either receiving the gospel or offering hospitality. (Hare, 118-119) These emissaries of Jesus are the "little ones," those who have renounced dependence on anything and anyone but God (Mt. 18:3-6, 10; Mk. 9:37, 10:14-15). In this mission discourse, the term "little ones" describes missionaries who are likely to suffer rejection, hatred, and even threat of death because they come in Jesus' name. For Jesus, those who became like children, the epitome of dependence and powerlessness in antiquity, were his representatives (Mt. 10:42, 11:26, 18:5-6). Those who welcome them will experience the same reward as those who seek to be welcomed. They are so precious to God, so important to God's plan, that a cup of cold water, so small a gift, will earn the giver a great reward. (Hare, 119) This saying foreshadows the judgment parable of Matthew 25:31-46.
Mission Trip Participant Pledge
There is one more sheet in my mission trip handout packet. It's called the "Mission Trip Participant Pledge."
To go on the trip I need to agree to do the following:
I promise to . . .
- Lift up Jesus Christ with my thoughts, words, and actions.
- Maintain a servant attitude toward the people our team serve and toward team members.
- Refrain from negativism and complaining. Travel and ministry in Honduras may present unexpected and even undesired circumstances. Your cooperation and flexibility will make the challenges less stressful.
- Remember that I am a servant of Jesus Christ called to be in ministry. I will serve as best I can so that both the spiritual purpose and the task of the mission will be accomplished.
At the bottom of the "Mission Trip Participant Pledge" is a place for me to sign and date the document.
Wouldn't those four promises be good to make every day of discipleship wherever in the world we are? Because even armed with a battery-operated fan, a bag of Planters salted peanuts, and some antiseptic hand wipes, we will experience "unexpected and even undesired circumstances" in our journey with Jesus. When we do, can we count on others to welcome and receive us? Can they count on us to welcome and receive them?
Who Is the Emissary of Jesus?
I saw an interview with actor Michael Douglas recently on Oprah. He spoke of his relationship with his father, Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, and told the following story.
Dad called me the other night. He said, "Michael, I was watching myself in an old movie earlier tonight and I didn't remember making it."
"Well, Dad, you made 75 movies and you are 94. Don't be so rough on yourself."
"No, Michael, you didn't let me finish. I realized halfway through that I was watching one of your movies."
Wouldn't it be wonderful if certain aspects of our lives and ways of relating to others were all but indistinguishable from Jesus? If they reminded others of Jesus, just a little bit? We seek, every day, in every place, on this mission trip of life, to be emissaries of Jesus: representatives of Jesus who welcome others as if they were Jesus and who relate to others in the spirit of Jesus?
Who is the representative of Jesus? New Testament scholar Craig Keener, reflecting on 10:39-39 in relation to 10:40-42, concludes that "The one who relinquishes control of his or her own life (10:38-39) becomes a representative of Jesus." (Keener, 211) Easier said than done, but we do so with confidence in our leader and the goal that, when we encounter others on our trip, we'll welcome the Christ in them and they'll welcome the Christ they see in us.
But first we have to get off the website and get on the plane. We have to get off the shore and into the boat.
Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, Ky: John Knox Press, 1993).
Craig S. Keener, Matthew: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997).
Thomas G. Long, Matthew: The Westminster Bible Companion Series (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997).
Daniel Patte, The Gospel According to Matthew: A Structural Commentary on Matthew's Faith (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987).
Donald Senior, Matthew, The Abingdon New Testament Commentary Series (Nashville: Abingdon, 1998).
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.