Sunday 09 February 2014

Bible Book:

Matthew 5:13-20 Sunday 9 February 2014


These verses form part of the Sermon on the Mount; the first ofJesus sections of teaching found in Matthew's Gospel. Matthew'sGospel provides us with five teaching blocks to remind us of thefirst five books of the Hebrew Bible, but we find here that Jesusis keen to assert that he is not trying to do away with the law andthe prophets, but to fulfil it. In referring to the law and theprophets he is talking about the whole of the Hebrew Bible or theOld Testament.

It must be remembered that the first hearers of Jesus were Jewsand so when he is describing them as "the salt of the earth" (v.13) and "the light of the world" (v. 14), he is describing theJewish nation. When we consider this in the context of hissubsequent statements about the law and the prophets it seems fairto assume that he is referring to their identity as a nationdefined by these writings. Their saltiness is maintained byadherence to the law and the prophets, and their status as thelight of the world occurs because of the faithfulness to theseScriptures. To not do so would be to lose their unique flavour.After all, who has ever heard of salt that is not salty? It is nolonger salt. This would mean a loss of identity alongside of theirunique role for the world. 

This passage is in many ways an introduction to what follows. Inthe subsequent verses we often hear the phrase "you have heard thatit was said ... but I say to you ...." (eg vv.21-22) and in each case Jesus makes the command even morestringent and as much about attitude as it is action. This is whathe means in verse 20 when he calls for a righteousness that exceedsthe Pharisees, and in verse 18 when he describes a stroke of aletter not being abolished from the law. It is not the detail ofthe written words, so much as the detail of our hearts.

To Ponder

  • What does being "the salt of the earth" or "the light of theworld" mean to you?
  • What would Jesus say to the Jewish nation today?
  • To what extent is it possible to attain the righteousness thatJesus describes?
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