Summary: When Jesus spoke of salt and light it wasn’t a mystery to those he was teaching, so what’s in it for us?
They are the type of thing that you don’t miss until you need them and don’t have them. But boy when you want them and they aren’t there you sure miss them then.
When Jesus was looking for a metaphor to describe his followers he reached out to and latched on to an unlikely pair. Well perhaps unlikely to us but to those he was talking to it was probably an “Ahhh!” moment. We don’t know exactly who all had gathered around Jesus to hear him speak that day, but we have some hints. Back at the beginning of the chapter, when this day began, you might remember we were told in Matthew 5:1-2 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them. Did you catch that, Jesus saw the crowds gathering but he went up to the mountainside and his disciples gathered around and he began to teach them.
So it was not crowds of semi interested people who had gathered around, it wasn’t the uninterested who were listening to the message that day it was people who were seeking the truth, who had already in some way committed themselves to following Jesus. Now we don’t know who all was there that day but we do know about four of them. Listen to these words from earlier in Matthew’s account. Matthew 4:18-21 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too.
Four fisherman and I’m pretty sure that they were the ones who had the eureka moment when Jesus talked about Salt and Light.
Salt and light, that was something they knew about because every night they made their way safely to shore by following the lights set out for them and every day they took the fish that they hadn’t sold fresh and they covered it in salt to preserve it for the next day. And so when Jesus looked out at his disciples and said “You are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world” Andrew and Peter and James and John all looked at each other and went “Ahhh, that’s what we are supposed to be.”
But here we are two thousand years later and instead of saying “ahhhh” we saying “Huh? Salt? Light?”
So what was it that Jesus was trying to say? What was it about salt and light that Jesus was trying to convey to those who sat around him on the hill that sunny Palestinian afternoon? And what is his message for us 2000 years later. What was it about salt and light that should be evidenced in those who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ?
The First thing is that They Are Distinctive. I’ve never heard anyone say “Hey what’s that strange taste” when they try something that is salty, It is very distinctive and defining, salt is not confused with other flavours, you don’t hear people say “You know it’s either salt or vanilla I’m not sure which.”
You might hear someone say “that is really salty” or “This needs more salt” but for the average person they don’t confuse the flavour of salt with other flavours.
It is the same way with light, you might hear someone say “What is that light” but you never hear about light “Is that a light or a . . .” I’m not even sure what you might possibly confuse a light with, perhaps a reflection but that is still a light of sorts.
And so Christ is telling those who gathered to hear him that day that if they chose to follow him they would be known as his followers, there would be something distinctive in their lives that people would know that they were a Christ follower. A number of years ago someone was telling me about a person who worked in the same office as they did. “We’ve worked together for years” the person told me “And I just found out they are a Christian, isn’t that funny?” No actually it’s kind of sad. We are not called to be the same as everyone else we are called to be different.
Different in our perspectives, different in our behaviour, different in our morals. People should be able to tell by your language that you are not like everyone else. By what you laugh at and don’t laugh at. When they are telling you about the weekend they had and you tell them that you worshipped the God of creation on Sunday. When they make sexual suggestive remarks and you don’t reply in kind.