Salt and Light – The Influence of Christians (Mat. 5:13-16)

Publié le 10 janvier 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Pastor Samuel Niblack

We are studying Jesus’ most famous sermon. Matthew organizes his Gospel around 5 great speeches that Jesus gave, 5 books of Moses. Matthew wants to convince his fellow Jews that Jesus gives full meaning and accomplishes everything that Moses announced concerning the Messiah.

This sermon has been called the King’s Manifesto. The charter of the citizen of his kingdom. In these 3 chapters, we find Jesus’ program, the values ​​of Jesus. But “Manifesto of the King” also because it is when his disciples put his words into practice that Jesus manifests himself today.

One of the main reasons people find it difficult to believe in God, to consider the Christian faith, is because of bad testimony, counter testimony. An answer to that is the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus will talk a lot about the difference between genuine faith and hypocritical faith. And despite everything, we must recognize the undeniable, non negligible good that true Christians have done in this world.

Let’s read Matthew 5: 13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the 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 underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven ».

We Christians, through a holy, different, pure life, are called to be a blessing to the world and to make others want to know and follow God. With these two images, Jesus gives us:

1. A commentary on the world

2. Encouragement for Christians

3. A challenge for our church

1. A commentary on the world 

Jesus uses two parallel and complementary images to convey the same idea. Very typical in the thought and the literature of the Hebrews, one finds this also in the proverbs – two synonymous sentences. We could talk about salt first and then about light, but I’m going to keep them together and see how his two images complement each other.

When he says “You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world,” this is already a comment that Jesus is making on the state of the world. If these disciples are salt and light, he is saying that the world is naturally dark and the world is tending to rot.

I recall that salt at the time had many functions, at the time it was mainly used for preserving food not like now with our fridges, plastic packaging and freezers.

According to Jesus, our world, left to itself, is a place of moral and spiritual darkness, evil grows more easily than good.

Do we agree with this? The Bible touches our conscience as it describes reality. Two groups who listened to Jesus’ teaching: the disciples and the crowd. At the end of the sermon, the crowd was shocked: this was very different from the speechs they were used to hearing from the experts of the time.

Our experts today say, “Look at all the improvements that have been accomplished. We are in the Age of Enlightenment, precisely because we have freed ourselves from God and obsolete beliefs. 

We have made progress. The world is on the rise. Unfortunately, technological progress does not mean moral progress. I read this quote recently from Yuval Noah Harari, a professor at the University of Jerusalem, his specialty is the evolution of our species, the history of humanity and its future: ‘It may be that the immense progress in our material living conditions, made in the past two centuries, or canceled by the collapse of the family and the local community. If so, average human happiness may be the same today as it was in 1800. Even the freedom we value so strongly can work against our interests. We can choose our spouses, our friends, our neighbors, but they can choose to leave us. As the individual has unprecedented power to choose their path in life, we find commitment and loyalty increasingly difficult. So we live in an increasingly lonely world, a world of decaying communities and families’.

Here is someone making the same comment as Jesus. (Another example of this world is that 25% of internet searches and 35% of downloads concern pornography content…)

A well-known actor, during the lockdown created a newscast with good news and good deeds only. It had lots of success, but yet another ironic commentary on the state of the world, the news headlines tell differently and are filled with bad news.

So you see, it’s hard not to agree with Jesus on the state of our world. At this, we could be alarmed, or become weary, thinking the world is so bad that we have to isolate ourselves, become withdrawn, lock ourselves up in a monastery, but no, Jesus’ images are very positive all the same.

2. Encouragement for Christians

You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. The people of Jesus, the church of Jesus is salt and light in this world. You are! Without being particularly gifted or aware of it.

There is a promise in his words: a city on a mountain cannot be hidden, and a lamp which is lit cannot be hidden. It is God Himself who lit a lamp, it is God who is building this new city, this city which cannot be hidden.

With Jesus’ help and the new heart he gives, when he transforms a life, will do everything Jesus is going to describe in this sermon, it will preserve, light up our world for the better. Jesus even says: you are the salt of the earth, you are the light. There is no other.

He can say this because his kingdom works differently from the rest. This is the main idea of ​​the sermon: the religions and the way this world thinks, operate with the same idea: we take care of the exterior, the appearance, the facade, hoping thereby to improve the interior. But according to Jesus, it is necessary to transform the interior, the heart and this will impact the exterior. (It’s important to understand this difference on the day of a baptism…)

These images are also encouraging in the fact, as much for salt as for light, it only takes a small amount to transform the whole lot. We don’t put 1 kilo of salt into 1 kilo of dough. The lamps at the time were not very powerful. A colleague on a team, a believer in a family, a church in a neighborhood can have an impact beyond its size.

These images can encourage us also by their complementary aspect: the light is generally a pleasant thing, the lights of this season are pretty, in the same way as Christians can shine with love, generosity and acts of service. On the other hand, salt is not particularly pretty. Salt is put on icy roads to prevent accidents, salt on meat, to preserve it, is not pretty in itself, it’s not delicious. Or, like salty water on a sore is good, even if it stings. 

The church of Jesus Christ has this effect too – it is not always seen as a pleasant thing or its position today concerning the value of human life, its desire to preserve marriage, its call to personal repentance… It’s part of our positive influence, even if the media would never say it.

3. A challenge for our church

Jesus adds a call, a warning. That it doesn’t lose its flavor, doesn’t hide its light.

These illustrations are part of the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, this manifesto from the king: True holiness, not hypocritical, not religiousness, where his people reflect the character of God. God is holy, God is perfect, Jesus calls us to live holy lives. Almost impossible to recuperate a bad testimony.

May your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify the Father. The light in question is good works. Good works are not those done in a church building, but the way we treat our fellow human beings.

Some examples that I know of in our church:

  • Candles and a poem are distributed to all the houses on the street
  • Implication in the ‘Zelles to fly’, the ‘CADA’ outings, ‘Helping hand’ (Main Tendue) association
  • Grant forgiveness, render service
  • Do not accept this or that compromise
  • Be gracious to others, but intolerant of sin in your own life
  • “Let your word be seasoned with salt” instead of reacting with anger, react with meekness and humility. Instead of being critical, be conciliatory.

All this is not to get compliments, or to deserve a good mark with God, but to make others want to know this God, to glorify him.

Eric Liddell, olympic champion in Paris, author of the disciple’s discoveries course: ‘how to follow Jesus’, put this into practice at the Stade des Colombes or on the Champs Elysees on his victory day surrounded by champagne and celebrities, and he put this into practice in the Japanese concentration camp in China where he died, still in service towards others, – universal truths and principles.