The word "receives" is a key part of this statement. This word "receives" - or "welcomes" in some versions - is being translated from the Greek word, δέχομαι (dechomai) - which means, according to the lexicon, "to take with the hand," "to take up, receive," "to receive into one's family to bring up or educate," "to receive favorably, give ear to, embrace, make one's own."
While "receive" is certainly not a poor translation, this could better be described as "to embrace." Not necessarily literally, but metaphorically. When a person embraces another in a metaphorical sense, the person not only "receives" the other, but takes on the person from an intimate platform - in a personal sense.
If, for example, a person says, 'I embraced his teaching,' what does this mean? It means the person digested those teachings and took them to heart. The person assumed the teachings.
This is what Jesus is speaking of. He is speaking of embracing him - which means embracing his teachings.
Jesus is saying that if someone embraces his teachings, they are embracing the Supreme Being. Why?
Because the Supreme Being sent Jesus:
"the One who sent me"Jesus is clearly communicating that he is being sent by someone. Who is Jesus being sent by? From this and Jesus’ many other statements, we can only understand that Jesus is referring to the Supreme Being.
Jesus' statement clarifies that not only are there two individuals involved - the Supreme Being and Jesus, but there is a relationship between them - i.e., one is serving the other - and thus carrying their message.
Jesus also explains the process of reception here. If we are “receiving” Jesus - embracing him, then we will also be "receiving" - embracing the Supreme Being.
This might be compared to an ambassador of a country being received with respect and honor. By doing so, the receiving country is respecting the president whom the ambassador represents.
And likewise, whoever “receives” Jesus students (the “you” in this statement is the audience Jesus is speaking to, made up of his students) correctly, also “receives” Jesus, and thereby also "receives" the Supreme Being.
So what we are talking about is a chain. A lineage of relationships.
So what does a person do when they "receive" Jesus, Jesus' students and thus the Supreme Being?
Jesus is speaking of receiving guidance. Guidance meaning an introduction to the Supreme Being and instructions that will lead one back to ones eternal relationship with the Supreme Being.
This is why receiving "a prophet" or "a righteous man" also falls in line here. A "prophet" and a "righteous man" in this context are both representing the Supreme Being. For example, Moses was God's representative. And Moses' student Joshua - a righteous man - also came to represent the Supreme Being when Moses passed away.
The phrase "a righteous man" is being translated from the Greek word δίκαιος (dikaios), which means, according to the lexicon, "righteous, observing divine laws," and "upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God."
Such a person is a devoted follower of the Supreme Being. "Receiving" or embracing such a person yields "a righteous man's reward." What is this?
The word "reward" is being translated from the Greek word, μισθός (misthos), which means, "reward: used of the fruit naturally resulting from toils and endeavors."
But when that word "reward" is preceded by the word δίκαιος meaning "righteous, observing divine laws," this means that by embracing such a righteous person, we can become righteous.
What is being described are spiritual relationships. The spiritual realm is driven by relationships. The Supreme Being enjoys loving relationships. And those He created were created with the purpose of exchanging loving relationships with Him. But because love requires freedom, He gave each of us the choice to love Him or not.
So those of us who chose not to love Him were given physical bodies and put into the physical world to play out our self-centered desires. Here we wear these physical bodies temporarily, enabling us to not have to see and even completely forget the Supreme Being.
At the same time, the physical world is set up as a rehabilitation center - a place of learning. So we are each given constant reminders and choices enabling us to choose to return to our relationship with the Supreme Being.
The Supreme Being also sends His loving servants - His messengers - throughout time to offer to each generation and to any person who may choose to return to Him - the tools to enable us renew our relationship with the Supreme Being (these including praising God's Holy Names.)
Embracing such a person - taking their teachings into our hearts and following them - will enable us to develop our relationship with the Supreme Being.
This is the knowledge Jesus is teaching, on behalf of the One who sent Jesus - the Supreme Being. Jesus' stated the two primary instructions of his teachings:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:37-40)
These teachings encompass the message that the Supreme Being is offering to us through the teachings of Jesus. It is this message that explains the unification of Jesus and the Supreme Being: Jesus is teaching God’s message. Therefore, to honor and obey - to embrace - those teachings also means to embrace the Supreme Being.
In the same way, Jesus is saying that if one of his students passes these teachings on to others, they also will become part of the message-carrying process. By receiving (embracing) Jesus' message and passing it on to others, they become part of the lineage that embraces and passes on these critical teachings.
Today, the teachings of Jesus have been boiled down by these professional teachers to claiming that all we have to do is accept Jesus as our personal savior and we will be saved. In this teaching, however, they are forgetting the very “One who sent" Jesus. They are completely erasing the intimate loving relationship that exists between Jesus and the Supreme Being. This also erases our opportunity to develop a relationship with the Supreme Being - which was the objective of Jesus' teachings. This is why Jesus said:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)