Summary: In explaining life following Jesus (discipleship), Jesus uses two elements from everyday life to explain His expectations and the results of being a disciple. The first is salt. The second is light.
Look like Light, Taste Like Salt
READ MATTHEW 5:13-16 [congregation reads along aloud]
"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.”
The passage that we just read together is part of Matthew 5 that most of the time is called the “Sermon on the Mount.” The Sermon on the Mount goes from Matthew 5 with the Beatitudes to Matthew 7 with the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders. The Sermon on the Mount contains a whole lot of theology about God, about being a follower of God, and about expectations God has of us. Matthew 5:1-2 clues us in on the situation. Matthew 5:1-2 says: “Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them saying…” His disciples were there. Crowds were there as well. Jesus sat down with His disciples and began to teach them and the rest of the crowds were there overhearing His solid teaching to His committed followers. I mention that because we need to remember that this passage is directed towards the followers of Jesus. This passage is for us!
In this passage, Jesus is giving us some direction on what it means to be a disciple.
TWO PRIMARY ELEMENTS
In explaining life following Jesus (discipleship), Jesus uses two elements from everyday life to explain His expectations and the results of being a disciple. The first is salt. The second is light.
Salt is a mineral that has been used for 1000s of years. Archaeologists have found places in Romania where people were boiling water to extract salts and salt-works in China that date back many thousands of years. Salt was even a tradable item and was used as money (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt). I mention all that to say that salt has been around a long time and it has been a normal part of life every day for most people. Jesus using salt to teach a lesson is not surprising since everyone listening would have used it, seen it, tasted it, or purchased it.
Salt in Jesus’ day had two primary purposes.
First, salt was used to preserve food. In an age of no refrigeration, no electricity, and no Kenmore, people had to preserve meats and other food somehow. Salt can preserve fish, meat, beans, cabbage, and many other foods (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salting_(food)). A family in ancient times that had a supply of salt was a family that could harvest or kill food and preserve it for later and provide for meals long after unsalted food would go bad.
Second, salt was used to purify. Bacteria and many types of fungus cannot survive in a salty environment. Salt is used to purify. There are actually two examples of this in the Bible. 2 Kings 2:21-22 says, “Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, "This is what the LORD says: 'I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.'" 22 And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.” Elisha used salt and God blessed that salt to create a perpetually good source of water. We also find a weird passage in Ezekiel 16:4 which says, “On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths.” It seems that salt was used when a baby was born to keep the baby healthy and to keep them from getting sick.
SALT STORY 1
I have two stories about salt that came to mind when I was reading over this passage. The first happened to me one day while I was checking out of Walmart. We use salt like most people, but one day I was shopping in Walmart and I found a grinder filled with pink salt. I thought it might add some taste to meals so I bought it. I was checking out and the cashier came to the item and just looked at it amazed. She asked me, “What is this?” I guess she had never seen it before. I told her it was salt. She asked me why it was pink. I told her it was a different kind of salt. Then she asked me a question that I did not have an answer to. She asked: “Do you think they color it all with a marker?” That story really has nothing to do with salt, but it is pretty funny.