40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Translation: The one receiving you receives me and the one receiving me receives the one who sent me. The one receiving a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward. And the one who receives justice in the name of a just person will receive a reward of justice. And whoever might give a drink of cool water alone to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, that one might surely not destroy his reward.
Background: Matthew was writing around AD 80-85, which means that Matthew is literature from the post-war period. It follows the devastation of the Roman-Jewish War of AD 66-70 when blood ran in the streets of Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed.
Matthew is at a few years remove from Mark, his primary source. (Mark wrote during or just after the devastation.) While Matthew's over-all "mood" is not as dark as Mark's, it is clear that Matthew's church saw themselves as fragile, vulnerable, and under threat.
Most of chapter 10 consists of sayings from Q which Matthew uses to argue that followers of Jesus may expect to meet the same resistance met by Jesus. The final three verses of this section--those included in our lection--appear to be not Q. 10:40 is quite similar to John 13:20, 10:41 is found only in Matthew, and 10:42 has a near parallel in Mark 9:41.
The immediate situation: Chapter 10 begins Book Two of Matthew's gospel, the focus of which is mission. It begins with Jesus calling the Twelve, giving them authority, and naming them. They are sent to do the same things Jesus had been doing--"Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons" (10:8)--everything Jesus had been doing, with the exception of teaching.
More than any other gospel, Matthew values Jesus as Teacher. The disciples have begun their period of instruction under Jesus, but they're just getting started. They don't know near enough yet in order for them to be able to teach others. Only in chapter 28, when the entire gospel is completed, do the disciples finally get the go-ahead to teach others. Only then are they enjoined to "teach all that I have commanded." (28:16) As for now, eighteen chapters yet remain in Matthew's gospel and Jesus has much more to teach.