Salt & Light Sermon
A couple weeks ago we started to look at the Sermon on the Mount. We discussed the Beatitudes and concluded that there was a blessing associated with humbling ourselves. This morning I’d like to look at another section of Jesus’ sermon.
Again I want to start by saying these are very familiar passages to us. And because they are so familiar we have a tendency to pass over them without much thought. My prayer is that by studying these passages, we develop the practice of looking for gold in the Word – that our daily reading becomes something more than just a habit.
Turn to Matt 5. But before we go any further, I want you to do something different. I want you to take off your Bible scholar hats. I want you to pretend for a couple minutes that you are not sitting in Ekklesia Church in Merrillville, IN. I want you to picture yourself sitting on blanket, on the side of a hill, in ancient Israel, and listening to your Pastor Jesus delivering his sermon. Are you with me?
Salt and Light
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 by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
OK, your pastor has just given you a charge. He just told you to do something. What did you get out of his message?
This passage is addresses both the inward character and the outward testimony of the believer. Salt is symbolic of the Believer’s inward character. While light is symbolic of the believer’s outward testimony.
What do we know about salt?
When we think of salt, the first thing that comes to mind is a white granular seasoning that we add to food to make it taste better. Is that what Jesus was talking about when he called us “salt of the earth”?
Ø Salt is an essential element in the diets of human, animals and even plants. Not only does it flavor our food, but it aids in digestion.
Ø Chemists refer to salt as sodium chloride.
Ø The oceans contain 50 million billion tons of salt.
Ø It was used by ancient Egyptians to preserve mummies.
Ø In China in 2700 BC, Peng-Tzoa-Kan-Mu wrote a treatise about salt. He discovered that there were (at that time) more than 40 different kinds of salt and that there were 2 methods of extracting salt. Sea water is evaporated, and rock salt is mined.
Ø Salt served as money at various times and places. We get the phrased “not worth his salt” from the Ancient Greek practice of buying slaves in exchange for salt.
Ø Roman soldiers were given Salarium Argentum or salt rations. From that we get the term “salary”.
Ø You can see why superstitions would have developed over the years about it being bad luck to spill your salt.
Ø When Leonardo da Vinci painted the last supper, he put an overturned salt cellar in front of Judas.
Ø More wars have been fought over salt than gold.
Ø Thousands of Napoleans’ troops died during his retreat from Moscow because they didn’t have enough salt to treat their wounds.
Ø Even in the US, during the Civil War, Northern Armies cut off the supply of salt to Confederate troops by encamping near salt deposits near New Orleans.
Ø Offering bread & salt to visitors is a tradition in many cultures
Ø In North America veins of salt run from Canada through the United States hundreds of feet underground.
Ø Salt used on icy highways and streets makes winter travel safe
Ø Salt has insulation properties in making pottery, pots are fired in a salt kiln.
In the Bible
Ø There are 30 references to salt in the Bible
Ø Job says, “Can nothing which is unsavory be eaten without salt.”
Ø Lots wife looked back as Sodom was being destroyed and was turned into a pillar of salt.
Ø When Elijah sweetened the waters at Jericho he cast salt into them to demonstrate the purifying power of salt.
Ø all sacrifices be salted before they were offered to God
In the days of Jesus Christ
Ø New born babies were rubbed with salt.
Ø A grain of salt placed in a tooth cavity was the usual remedy for a toothache.
Ø there was no refrigeration in those days, meat and fish were packed in salt to draw blood and moisture from them
Ø The primary source of salt was the shore of the Dead Sea.
So when Jesus said,
13 “You are the salt of the earth”.
He was saying that, you as his follower have value. You are important to God. You possess something that the rest of the world needs for life.
You’ll remember that I said salt was a symbol of the believer’s inward character. By inward character, I mean that thing that distinguishes the believer from a non-believer, not only the residence of the Holy Spirit but the moving of the Holy Spirit in that person’s life.
When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth”, he was saying you are the agent by which the Holy Spirit can minister health, healing, and preservation.
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 by men.
Salt never loses its taste. It will become rock hard, it can become so damp it won’t come out of the shaker unless you unscrew the top and pour it out. Either way it tastes the same. It is still salt.
Back in Jesus’ day they didn’t have the technology we had to refine salt. In fact it was difficult for them to tell the difference between the salt and the sand on the shores of the sea. What they called salt was really a mixture of sand and salt - sometimes more salt than sand.
When it was more sand than salt, it had “lost its savor” and therefore wasn’t good for anything but to be “cast out and trodden under foot.”
Likewise if we, as believers take something into our spirits that is not godly we push aside the Holy Spirit. We mix His love salt with our sand of selfishness.
Colossians 4:6 tells us to
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
A conversation seasoned with salt means we are speaking the Word, the undiluted, pure Word of God that ministers health, healing, and preservation. We know that if we preach the Word, signs and wonders will follow. Romans 10:14 says
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
Our values are always expressed in our actions. Salt, like our faith is no good unless it is at work. That may be why Jesus didn’t stop his sermon at this point.
14 “You are the light of the world.
Light is a symbol of our testimony. A light is meant to shine and give direction.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
Any elevated city lit by torch lights at night would be visible to the surrounding countryside.
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.
The small oil lamps of this period gave off little light in the average home, which had few windows; they would be most effective by being set on a lampstand.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
In the Greek, the phrase “in the same way” or “even so” in the KJV, points back to the lampstand. Remember there are no punctuation marks in Greek. A more correct translation if this verse says that men are to let their light shine, not to glorify themselves, but “your Father in heaven.”
Light shines to help people see, it does not to call attention to itself. Light-radiating people live so that others see their good deeds and give praise not to them but to their Father in heaven.