I can't tell you how many times I've read those words.
Never, until now, did I really understand the importance of "cold water," especially in the context of heat, need and extremity of circumstance.
While a "cup of cold water" truly is a small thing for most (a gesture that allows for the use of the word "even," as Jesus says here), for many recipients in many situations, a cup of cold water is the best thing, the big deal, the perfect provision.
Surely this was the case in Jesus' day. Palestine is an arid place. The heat, the wilderness, the difficulty of travel and life in general among the poor mimics in a way the challenge of living on the hot streets of a city like Dallas. Where to find water becomes a daily challenge, among the most important of each new day. As a matter of fact, the whole process of water in, water on and water out (!) pretty well sums up the routine challenge of being homeless.
On Thursdays I sit on the corner of Malcolm X and I-30. I arrive with a ice chest full of bottled water iced down. Passersby, most on the way toward the nearby "walk in," as my homeless friends refer to the Austin Street Center, receive the water I offer with real gladness and usually appreciation.
Nothing is better than ice cold water on a hot day. That is especially true when the water gives way to conversation and the planting of friendship. What may seem a small, routine thing at first glance, takes on a larger life when considered in view of the human need.
Jesus knew what he was talking about. I believe we do well when we follow his lead. After all, it's just not that complicated.