Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)
Salt and Light
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
When someone in an authoritative position speaks, the proper response to what they say is that you … do it. When my High School Senior Math teacher told me to take and complete the 30 page, front and back, take home test which covered everything from Freshman math to Trig and Analytic Geometry … the wrong response would have been to say … “uhhhh, no.” That response would have been met with a, “I don’t care what you think. If you want to pass, you will do it.”
When the basketball coach said to run four suicide sprints, if they were smart, no one on the team would have said anything, they would have just started running. If a comment was made, the number of sprints would have only gone up.
When mom or dad say be home by a certain time … the proper response is to be home by that certain time or earlier. Arrival any time after that designated time would be considered disrespectful and the child’s actions will probably be followed up with some sort of consequence. Same thing applies when it comes to screen time or to video game time. If the command isn’t followed with a proper response, there are consequences.
But here’s the real question I want to get at with all this. What is the proper response when Jesus says something about you? The answer to that is pretty straightforward, it shouldn’t really take much thought. And even though it is pretty straightforward, the answer is important. If Jesus says something about me, about you, about us … the proper response is that we are suppose believe it. We are suppose to believe it simply because Jesus speaks as one who has authority. One who has authority like no one ever did before him or who would come after him. Jesus speaks with the authority of one who is God, and that is because Jesus is God. When God speaks, things happen as they are suppose to happen. So … what is the proper response when Jesus says something about us? We are to believe it.
This morning in the gospel lesson, Jesus says something about his disciples, which means he also says something about us. Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.” Jesus declares, “You are the light of the world.”
What Jesus means by this is pretty clear. The world in which we live, it’s in pretty bad shape. The earth needs salt. Now whether the salt is for flavoring it or preserving it or for whatever the reason, that isn’t what is really important. The important thing for us to know is simply that the earth needs salt.
Jesus also says that the world we live in is a dark place and it is in drastic need of light. The world needs light so that people can see, see the truth, see who God is and what God is all about. And so Jesus says to his disciples, “You are salt, you are light.” And, we are suppose to believe it.
If we are to believe it, then do I dare be bold enough, do I be like the student who questions their teacher or the child who questions their parents and ask the question … what are the consequences if I don’t believe Jesus when he says “You are salt” and “You are light”? Well, being that Jesus has said it and he is one who has authority, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. to ask that question.
Jesus though in a riddle gives us an idea of what it would be like if we don’t believe what he says. He says, “if salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (5:13). Well, that doesn’t sound good. I don’t want to be like gravel and trampled on. If we don’t believe it, if we don’t believe what Jesus says about us, then things get a little absurd, a little bizarre. Jesus says you can’t hide a city set on a hill can you? Uuuuuuuh, no. Nor does anyone in their right mind light a lamp in a small dark house and put it under a bowl do they? Uuuuuuuh, no. That would be insane! It’s insane because it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous to not believe what it is which Jesus says about us. So this morning, as odd as this may sound … I think we should believe what it is that Jesus says about us.
And in what Jesus says about us is that he has appointed us, he has appointed you and me to make a difference in the world. Jesus doesn’t get specific. He doesn’t give us a 5 step or a 40 step plan on how you and I can make a difference in the world. He simply says that your good works, your good deeds are like light which can reveal God the Father. You are salt and light and today, not tomorrow or sometime next week, but today, today we should let our good works shine for the purpose of drawing others, whether they are Christian or not, so that we can draw in others to see a bit more clearly what and who God is like. And maybe, just maybe they will glorify God because of that.
Now I’m sure with a little creativity and the use of your imagination, you can come up with some good works to do. You don’t need Pastor Meyer or myself to go through a checklist of things which are considered good works and which are not. I know that you are smart enough to come up with some good works on your own. It’s not hard. You and I can think of ways to be salt and light to those around us. Jesus says that … thus we should believe him.
Now it’s one thing to say we should believe Jesus and it’s another thing to actually believe him. And it isn’t really a good use of the pulpit for me to stand up here and to exhort you, to urge or pressure you into believing Jesus. So since I can’t convince you to believe, I invite you to just listen in on what it is Jesus says right before our lesson about different kinds of people. What Jesus says there is true and here is what he says.
Jesus says … for people who have nothing to offer God, for people who can never seem to get their act together, Jesus says these people … these people are really really fortunate. He says their blessed. So blessed that you could call them saved, and why? Because all the gifts of a king, the gifts of forgiveness, a new life, a new identity, a new community, an eternal belonging … all these kingly gifts, they belong to people who are spiritually bankrupt and who have nothing to offer God in return.
Jesus also says that those who are able to see that the world is dark and that its rotting away and are willing to be troubled by it and mourn … they will be blessed. They will be really blessed because there is a day when Jesus comes again and all mourning will finally come to an end.
Jesus says that people who are powerless and can’t make it happen, the meek … they are really blessed because they will one day get to live in God’s new heaven and new earth forever.
Jesus said that people who know that things are not right in the world … those people are blessed. They are blessed because one day, God will make it right. And that will be completely and eternally satisfying.
Have you caught what Jesus has said? People who have nothing to offer to God … that’s you, that’s me. That is how blessed we are.
But wait, Jesus goes on to say that merciful people are blessed too because they will receive God’s mercy on the last day to cover all of their sins. Jesus said that people who are pure in heart, that is those whose hearts are set on the God of Israel, set on the Father of Jesus for salvation and no other god … they will be really really blessed because they will one day get to see God face to face.
Those who make peace, they will be blessed because they will be called God’s sons and daughters because God offers them peace.
Do you hear what Jesus is saying? He’s saying that when this dark and rotting world hassles you, hates you, persecutes you because you belong to him … then you are really blessed because all of God’s kingly gifts, his forgiveness, eternal life with him … those gifts belong to you. Jesus was talking about you. You are really, really blessed. You are blessed right now and on the last day.
So I invite you to listen to Jesus. I invite you to believe Jesus and what Jesus says. What am I to be? “You are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world.” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.