THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we finished up the 9 beatitudes in Matthew 5. In this lesson, we will push forward in this life changing sermon that Jesus preached. We began with:
Matthew 5:13 " You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
Mark’s account says:
Mark 9:50 "Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another."
Luke’s account says:
Luke 14:34 " Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? 35 "It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
Jesus says we are the salt of the earth and in verse 14, He says we are the light of the world. These two elements are among the most common elements that can be found anywhere on earth and both are necessary for life. Our bodies need salt and if we did not have light from the sun, life on our planet as we know it would be gone because in the end, we would all freeze to death.
Of course, we are going to focus on being the salt of the earth first. I think you might be surprised at how much can be gleaned from the simple statement Jesus makes.
J.T. Marlin shares a story that illustrates the importance of salt. The story goes like this:
A king summons his three beautiful daughters and asked them how much they loved him. The first daughter said, “Father, I love you more than all the riches of your empire. More than all the gold and silver and the precious stones and lands and houses.” This saying impressed the king with the claim of devotion.
The second daughter said, “Father, I love you more than pomp and pleasure of the court. More than all the rich foods, beautiful clothes, and music. More than the balls and expensive carriages and good times of the empire. This answer pleased the king.
When the third, youngest daughter was asked the same question, her simple answer shocked the king because she said, “Father, I love you more than salt.” The king was not pleased with her response and he argued with her and shamed her in front of everyone for her lack of devotion.
The court chef heard how the king was treating the younger daughter about her response, so he decided to teach the king a lesson by not putting any salt on the food at the next meal. When the king began to eat, he started complaining about how bland the food was, then the cook told king, “Sire, I left the salt out of the cooking today so you might know how much your youngest daughter truly loves you.”
The king got the message and called his youngest daughter to him and gathered her into his bosom and thanked her and apologized for being so short sighted. He realized how indispensable salt really is and concluded that his youngest daughter loved him more and was more devoted to him than his other daughters. Adapted from the “Sermon on the Mount Getwell Lectureship”
As Solomon asked:
Job 6:6 Can flavorless food be eaten without salt?
This story illustrates the importance of us being the salt of the earth. The world has little to offer anyone beyond the flesh or beyond this life, but when we as Christians have the qualities that we studied in the Beatitudes, we can add great flavor to the world because the message we have to offer to the world makes life worth living. So, don’t ever underestimate how important you are as a Christian to the world.
Salt has always been important. The ancients considered the salt deposits as a gift from the gods. Many wars have been fought for over salt deposits, there have been salt taxes, and salt has even been used as money. The Jews were to use salt with their offerings:
Leviticus 2:13 'And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.
I think everyone can agree that salt is also important to us. So, without a doubt, as we take on this role as being the salt of the earth, we can see just how important it is. To help us gain and even deeper understand of about salt, let’s look at how some of the qualities of salt.
First, salt will make you thirsty. We have all heard the expression “you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.” That is true unless you feed him salt. A man by the name of David Roper used to do this when he was a kid. When he was showing animals at fair, if the animal was looking gaunt, he would give it salt, which would cause it to drink more water and fill them out.
Think about the application of this. When we live our lives as a direct reflection of Jesus, we can make people thirsty to want to know more about God.
Of course, our words are important as well, which brings us to our second quality, which is salt can bring out the flavor in food and make it easier to swallow. I know we have all probably sit at the table and one point or another and said, “please pass the salt.” Some foods are just too bland without it.
Let’s relate this to our speech. As Paul said:
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
Let’s say you have a wife who is very sensitive and maybe she is wearing something that does not look all that good in your opinion. She is about to go on an interview and want her to make a good first impression. What do you say? Do you say, you need to change your clothes and throw that outfit in the trash because if go out dressed like that you are going to make little kids scream when they see you coming? Well, I guess you could, but you will be in the dog house for quite some time.
If you wanted to get your message across seasoned with salt, you might say something like this, “Honey, I love you. I think you are a beautiful lady, and I want you to make a great impression today. That outfit you have on right now is alright, but I think you look even better in that blue dress, don’t you?” Depending on the wife, you still might be in a little bit trouble, but this second approach is definitely easier to handle.
The same thing is true when it comes to talking to people about God. We could go door knocking and ask the person if they go to church. If they say no, we could tell them that they are going to burn in the pits of hell with the father the devil if they do not change their ways. How much further do you think a conversation like that will go on after making such a statement? Not far. However, if you began to talk to them about God and His plan for man and God does not anyone one to go to hell, then you are going a much greater chance of reaching them with the truth.
I want to make one thing clear, Paul did not say let your speech be seasoned with sugar, which coats things and keeps thing hidden. He said let your speech be seasoned with salt, which does not hide what is before your eyes, it blends in with it makes it easier to swallow. It also does not mean that there will not be a time when one is to be blunt and straight to the point.
Jesus is perfect example of this because His speech was seasoned with salt many times when He spoke to the opposing Jews, but there were other times when Jesus was a blunt as He could be because these Jews were being rebellious. Such as in:
Matthew 23:13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. 15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
That is just a small sample of His bluntness in this chapter.
Another quality of salt is that it is considered to be pure. If you will remember earlier Jesus said: Have salt in yourselves. So, in order to be the salt of the earth, we must be pure.
One the most of the most important uses of salt before the invention of freezers was using it as a preservative. For example the fisherman would pack his fish in salt because it would make them keep much longer. They would use the same technique with other meats as well.
As we compare this to Jesus calling us the salt of the earth, we can see that the earth is something that will rotten and become rancid without the salt preserving it. This tells us how important that we be the salt of the earth. Just as a small amount of salt can preserve meat, a small amount of Christians within a society can preserve the morals of that society. We can see how only a few godly people could have saved Sodom and Gomorrah:
Genesis 18:23 And Abraham came near and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 "Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? 25 "Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" 26 So the LORD said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes." 27 Then Abraham answered and said, "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: 28 "Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?" So He said, "If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it." 29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, "Suppose there should be forty found there?" So He said, "I will not do it for the sake of forty." 30 Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?" So He said, "I will not do it if I find thirty there." 31 And he said, "Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?" So He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty." 32 Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten." 33 So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
What this tells us is that 10 godly people could have kept this city from being destroyed. So, this principle should encourage us to never give up being a positive influence on our society even if there is just a few of us. Our jobs is to help preserve the earth with God’s righteousness.
I want you to think about this. In order for salt to do any good for meat it must come in contact with it. In the same way, if we are going to be able to do any good with our time on this earth, we have to come in contact with the world and influence them. While it is certainly important for us to encourage other Christians, we are must also do our part of being an influence on the lost. As Jesus says later in His sermon:
Matthew 5:43 " You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Everything we have looked at so far tell us a lot about what it means to be the salt of the earth. Notice what else Jesus said in the latter part of our original verse:
but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
I see this as saying that if a Christian does not uphold the qualities as mentioned in the Beatitudes and chooses not to live for the Lord, then he becomes like salt that has lost its flavor. He is worthless because he cannot possibly influence anyone in the world toward righteousness or salvation because the worldly cannot preserve the worldly.
Before I move on to our next few verses, I want to share an interesting point from Coffman Commentary about the salt losing its flavor:
Regarding the question of salt's losing its savor, Elmer W. Maurer, research chemist with the United States Department of Agriculture and a brilliant contemporary scientist, made this interesting reference to this portion of the Saviour's teachings:
Salt was accepted and collected as taxes by the Romans from the people of the Holy Land. One of the main sources of salt for Palestinians, of course, was the Dead Sea, or Salt Sea. So oppressive were these taxes that the people adulterated the salt with sand or other earthy material (the salt to begin with was not our nice pure table salt). The government purified the salt by spreading it in big vats or tanks, filling them with water and drawing off the concentrated salt solution or brine. All that remained was the earthy, insoluble material. Indeed, the salt had lost its savor because it was no longer salt. It was fit to be trodden underfoot.
And this was not the only way that salt could lose its savor. The surface waters of the Dead Sea, on evaporation, have a chemical salts content of about 31 percent sodium chloride, 13 percent calcium chloride, and 48 percent magnesium chloride, together with other impurities. The calcium and magnesium chlorides are hygroscopic (take water out of the air) and will thus literally dissolve the sodium chloride. A bitter tasting composition results. It was the custom to store vast amounts of this salt in houses that had earthen floors. In time, the salt next to the ground spoiled because of the dampness. Since it would be harmful to fertile land because of its salt content, no man would allow it to be thrown on his field. The only place left was the street, where it was trodden under foot of man. Thus the Bible was proved scientifically accurate, even in its many small details - for this was just a lone example.
Next Jesus says this:
Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Light is another one of those essential elements that everyone appreciates. I can remember one year when we did not see the sun much for almost a month. Almost every day was cloudy and rainy and really affected my mood. However, when the sun came out, it not only made things brighter, it made me feel better.
This is certainly included in this idea of being a light to the world. When you get around a Christain who is nice and positive, he makes you feel better even if your day is not going to well. However, not everybody appreciates the light because it exposes sin. As Paul wrote in:
Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.
John 3:19 "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
The world is in a dark place and many in it are like cockroaches. Anytime the light is shining they go running for a dark place, but the world is desperate need of the light. We must never forget that Jesus is the true source of light. A good example of this comes from:
John 1:4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
As great as John the Baptist was, he understood that he was only a reflection of the true light, which is Jesus. As Jesus said:
John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
Every Christian needs to realize that we are all supposed to be lights. We are to be a direct reflection of Jesus. The way we allow our lights to shine bright is by us living our lives based on the Word of God. Being a light is not optional, which is why Jesus said:
A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
To better understand this idea of a city being on a hill we have to back in time. In Palestine, they would build their cities on hills for two main reasons. 1. They did not want to waste valuable farming land. 2. It made a good way to be protected because they could see any enemy that might come their way. When people were travelling at night, they could always look up and see the lights of the city so they could know where to go.
We are to be that same way in our Christian lives. The people of the world should be able to tell that we are Christians. If we simply blend in with the world, then how can they see? They cannot! Jesus gives a great example by pointing out how no one will light a lamp and then cover it with a basket because that would be pointless kind of like having salt without any flavor.
In the same manner it is pointless to become a Christian and then to hide the fact that you are one. Instead, we should allow ourselves to shine brightly as that city on a hill so that people can see Jesus shining through us. Jesus tells us how this is done. It is through our good works. When people see the good deeds we do it glorifies our Father in heaven. We should never be afraid to let our light shine. As David said:
Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
Though the world may hate the light at times, it needs it because not only does it expose sin, it gives hope. Let us never forget that we are God’s chosen people as Peter said:
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
Every Christian should understand what it means to be in the light and how wonderful it is. Yes, it can expose the sin in our lives, but we also know that it means that we can have our sins forgiven and that heaven will be our home. As John writes:
1 John 1:5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Let us be challenged with what Jesus has told us. Let us be the salt of the earth and the light of the world by living our lives in such a way that we can influence those who are around and show those who are living in darkness just how wonderful it is to be in the light where God and His truth dwells.
This lesson was adapted in part from the following sources:
Coffman Commentary on Matthew 5
Sermon On the Mount Getwell Lectureship J.T. Marlin Chapter 10
Truth For Today Commentary The Life of Christ, 1 David Roper.
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