Sermon on the Mount Part II: Matthew 5:13-20
When cooking outdoors on a camping trip, sometimes we don’t have seasoning available to us that we normally have in the kitchen. We may not even have salt or pepper. We tend to use things that we would normally throw out like bacon grease or the fat from the meat. It’s amazing how much different (and better) fried potatoes can taste when you add a little salt to them.
We may not have the same appreciation for salt that they did in the ancient world. Low-sodium diets kept it off the table for a number of years and we certainly don’t have the same respect for it that they did in generations past. Salt was an important trade commodity and when we think about the spice trade of antiquity, we may not immediately think of salt but this would have been key.
In a world without refrigeration, salt was a wonderful preservative. This would have stretched resources and allowed armies to grow larger and move farther than ever before. So salt changed the world.
What does it mean when Jesus uses this term in the Sermon on the Mount, saying “You are the salt of the earth”? Is he referring to his disciples or the congregation at large? Does he mean all people or just those present?
Many times we use the term “Light of the World” to refer to Jesus (stemming from John’s Gospel). But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses it to refer to you! What does it mean to be salt and light? What did it mean to a world without refrigeration or even electricity?
This part of the sermon may be challenging or comfortable but the next part throws us over the edge because we’re not really following it if you use a literal reading. Jesus mentions that we shouldn’t be breaking any of God’s word (which we think of today as the Old Testament). No one I know follows all of the Old Testament laws today. There are too many that would get you sent to jail (various forms of capital punishment meted out as a consequence for your neighbor's violation of the law). What does Jesus mean when he says, “whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven”?
This Sunday, we’ll continue with the series on the Sermon on the Mount as we look at Matthew 5:13-20. The first part is rather affirming while the last bit may be kind of a head-scratcher. I hope you'll plan on joining us for this important look at our faith!