This week Jesus spends some time telling the disciples how to BE disciples in real time. And so when Jesus was teaching the disciples on the mountain in the Sermon on the Mount, he gave them some illustrations about how to carry out their work, right?” “He told the disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” And also light.
Salt preserves and enhances flavor. As salt, we add flavor and zest to the world, and we also preserve goodness in the world. And as light, we reflect God’s glory and bring God’s light into dark places—and there is plenty of darkness in our world.
This perspective of authentic belief and outward practice described as righteousness runs through all of our readings this week. In short, the question is “Who is your God?” This question is at the very core of stewardship in our faith authenticated, or not, by how we use our time and God-given abilities and how we share our material and financial resources.
Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that we are salt and light. We are baptized as partners with Jesus in establishing the kingdom of heaven to preserve the faith of the Gospel for the good of the world. In today’s reading, Jesus gives us our job description, tells us who we are to be as his followers—And that’s all of us. Farmers, parents, horseback riders, nurses, realtors, insurance agents, priests, retired people, students, teachers, accountants, those of us who are still seeking clarity about what God is calling us to do in our lives—regardless of who we are, and who we are to become, God is always giving us work to do, here and now.
Preservation of our own belief in the Gospel comes through authentic practice of our faith stewarding our time and abilities in prayer, worship, and service of others, and stewarding our material and financial resources to support the mission of the Church. The “scribes and Pharisees” in Matthew’s gospel account are characterized by closing themselves off to the presence of the kingdom of heaven because they were busy maintaining their own kingdoms.
The Gospel reading is the second week of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus provided this as an instruction manual that directly addressed the Messianic Jews of Antioch, who found themselves deeply embattled by the Pharisees and Sadducees
As Jesus begins, the audience is apparently his closest disciples (5:1); when he ends, the audience is much broader (7:28). The primary theme of the sermon is righteousness or justice (dikaiosune); the content that follows will give the specifics. Jesus’ teaching opens with the beatitudes (5:3-11).
Matthew follows the Beatitudes with two sayings, one on salt and one on light. Salt was used as a purifier of sacrifices (Ezekiel 43:24). The images of both salt and light also described the law. Light also referred to God and to the restored Israel after the exile.
Verses 17-20 explain Jesus’ relationship to the law. Because of the destruction of the temple, the central authority for Judaism during this period was the law, and Jesus was to be evaluated in relationship to it.
Matthew asserts that a great reversal has taken place: The law is no longer to be the center about which everything revolves. Jesus is the new center, and the law and the prophets must be evaluated in relation to him. That relationship is one not of abolition, but of fulfillment. Matthew sees the law and prophecy as fulfilled in Jesus (11:13). The law pointed forward to, and now finds its meaning in, Jesus.