This is the sermon for Sunday, November 27th, 2011.
Unless noted, all Scripture is from the ESV.
Matthew part 13
The great Rabbi’s sermon part 4
Salt and light.
Matthew 5:13-16 – 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. 16In 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.
We are continuing in the portion of Matthew that is called, “The Sermon on the Mount.” This is Matthew chapter 5 through chapter 7. We are calling our study in Chapter 5 of Matthew, “the great Rabbi’s sermon.” For Jesus is teaching this as a Jewish Rabbi would teach the people. He is revealing that the Jews are unable to keep the Law and also that true right standing (righteousness) with God is found in the King and the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus has just finished the portion of the sermon known as the beatitudes. Now let’s look at what He has to say about being salt and light.
Matthew 5:13 – 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.
Jesus declares that those who listen to His teaching in this sermon are the salt of the earth.
Salt, in the times of Jesus Christ was used as a preservative, a flavor enhancer, and even in some cases fertilizer. These Jews who are listening to Jesus in this sermon think that they are good keepers of the Law of God. But He is about to expose them.
He is first using the example of salt. When Salt is used properly and at its greatest strength, it preserves, protects, and enhances.
Well those who endeavor to obey the Law should do so for the purpose of preserving, enhancing and protecting. But in order do those things properly, it must be done with absolute perfection; which we know that this is impossible for anyone other than Jesus Christ of Nazareth to do. So in the same way that you throw out salt when it loses it taste, those who cannot keep the Law perfectly will be thrown out.
Now this sounds like bad news doesn’t it?
Well, to the Christian it is not bad news. For we know that our righteousness is not found in our perfect obedience to the Law, but it is found in Christ’s perfect obedience too it and in the fact that His perfect righteousness has been imputed to us. You see, in Christ Jesus, Law-keeping to perfection has been fulfilled. And those of us who because of our sin are salt-less, have been made salty through the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 5:14-15 – 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.
The Jewish listeners to Jesus are called the light of the world.
The Jews believed they were truly lights of the Law to a world of Gentile Lawlessness. After all, they had received the Law, the revelation, and the prophets of the Old Covenant. But the fact of the matter, they were not the light, because the true light was the Messiah – Jesus of Nazareth.
Notice what the Prophet Isaiah wrote.
Isaiah 42: 6-7 – 6“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
Something happened to the Jews – they turned from God and His ways, and broke His Law. Instead of being a light to the Gentiles, they hid their light by covering it with their sin, as one would hide the light of a lamp by placing a basket over it.
As Christians, we are to be a light in the world – a light that reflects the true light of the world, Jesus Christ. We reflect His light by our good works before those who are not followers of Christ.
1 Peter 2:12 – Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
But how is this possible for us? For we too will not only sin privately, but sometimes publicly in front of non-believers; thereby covering up the light we shine with our sin and failures. Well, the good news is this light we are to shine is not some moral code of conduct. This light we shine is none other that Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore the works we do are done because of Him and through Him.
Notice what Jesus says about Himself.
John 8:12 – Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus reveals to us what is the work of God we all are supposed to do.
John 6:28-29 – 28Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Christ working through us is a powerful testimony.
Matthew 5:16 – 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.
The only way this is properly done is to allow Christ to shine through us.
The fact that while we were yet sinners, He loved us and made us alive in Him should compel us to live a life of obedience and love toward Him. When this is true it is His light, not our own that we are shining by our good works.
What are the benefits of good works? Well not for the purpose of making us holier and more like Jesus; but for the benefit of those who are without the light of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that you and I shine the light of Jesus Christ in our works to our families, friends, enemies, and places of business and places we frequent. All of them need to know Jesus is the Savior and will forgive their sins. Let’s be light-bearers – shining the light of His glory.