34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
This picture is an ancient baptismal font. We find similar fonts in excavated Christian churches throughout much of the ancient world. They were used a little differently than the usual font we find in a church today. A person was led into water up to about the knees, baptized, likely by someone pouring water over their head, and ascended out the other side. Before entering the font, a person divest himself or herself of all personal belongings, money, even clothing. Upon coming up from the waters of baptism, they were clothed in a new white robe. Their money and other possessions were returned to them but with words to the effect that these are now all gifts from God to be used for Him in His kingdom.
Jesus speaks a difficult word for us today. We often would like to think that we can comfortably be Christians. We have even gotten into the comfort business as a church. Our retirement funds are frequently managed by entities like Thrivent or the Lutheran Foundation or Lutheran Church Extension Fund. We calculate our “needs” and estimate if we have saved enough.
Please do not get me wrong. I am not opposed to wise and prudent financial planning. I do not think Jesus is opposed either. But Jesus’ words force us today to keep in mind his ownership of our very life and all we have. You do realize, do you not, that it all belongs to Jesus? We cannot truly claim ownership of anything this side of baptism. This includes your home, the money in the IRA, even your body and your family. He did not die to lay claim to an hour on Sunday and a percentage of your income. He died and rose for you. The past weeks and months have revealed how fragile our carefully constructed lives really are. People are tense and worried, and with good reasons. That anxiety probably lies at the root of some of the unrest we are witnessing.
The final words of this passage speak to our fears and anxieties. Your whole life is in Jesus’ hands. If someone does something small, perhaps gives you a cup of cold water on a hot day, Jesus notices that. You may not be able to reward that person, but He will. He does not promise that He will make all the problems go away. He only promises that the One who has already walked through the dark and dangerous road will go with us, all the way to eternal life.