During his lifetime, Jesus went about teaching as well as healing people. Most of Jesus’ words, teachings and parables were faithfully copied down and are in our Bibles today. Some of Jesus’ teachings call us to such high moral and ethical standards that we can never meet these demands in our own power. Jesus knows that and He covers us with His righteousness. And Jesus also gives his Holy Spirit to us to change and guide us. Only in the Spirit can we aim for Jesus’ high standards.
We will go over many of Jesus’ teachings in the next few blogs. Today we will start with one of Jesus’ teachings where He tells his followers that they are “salt”. Here are Jesus’ words: “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 underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13) What is Jesus trying to teach us here?
Earlier Jesus told his disciples to be fishers of men. Now he tells his followers that they are the “salt” of the earth. They were to change the lives of people on the earth by going into all the world and preaching the good news. Christ sends us out into the world today to be seasoned with the gospel and to spread the salt of grace. The gospel of salvation in Jesus is like salt in that it gives flavor and seasons and penetrates and cleanses and preserves lives from spoilage. When salt is added it spreads throughout and gives flavor to a flavorless dish. And like salt the gospel changes lives wherever it goes, adding joy and purpose to a life that may have been lost and drifting before.
But then Jesus warns that if we Christians who he calls “salt” somehow lose our “saltiness” we will be useless. We will be unprofitable and good for nothing. What good is a hateful Christian without grace? Or someone who calls themselves a Christian but doesn’t believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior? Does this mean that we started out with the salty message and of the gospel and then later changed that message or watered it down? Or does it mean that we say all the right Christian words but there is no love or kindness in our actions? When we walk in the Spirit we will be led to keep our precious “salt” salty.
And then Jesus also tells his followers that we are the light of the world. These are His words: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a lampstand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14)
Jesus is the “Light of the world” and when we have his Spirit in us we carry his light into the world. We are perhaps little lights. The gospel of Christ is so strong a light and carries with it so much of its own evidence, that, like a city on a hill, it cannot be hidden. As lights to the world we are intended to shine and give light to others. So our calling as Christians is to be salt and light to a dark world by spreading the gospel of salvation in Christ along with loving others and doing good. Jesus said that people would see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. To glorify God or praise our Father is what we aim at in everything we do.
But along with Jesus’ warning us about losing our saltiness, He also warns us about covering up our light. Do we cover up the light of Christ within us when it isn’t fashionable to walk the Christian walk or talk the Christian talk? We must not muffle ourselves up in privacy or modesty or self-preservation and keep our light hidden. Do we join in to hate and ridicule and criticize when we know that these things cover up our light? It is a joyful thing to hold our lights up high and let them shine out into the darkness. People are drawn to our light when it is set upon a lampstand of love and mercy.
Another teaching Jesus gave us was that He did not come to change or take away the laws that had been given to the Jewish nation by God and written down in the Old Testament. And He also told us that we are never to teach others that some of God’s laws don’t need to be obeyed any longer. Jesus taught that “The word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:25)
Here is part of what Jesus said: “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…” (Matthew 5:17) And Jesus went on to tell his followers more: “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “(Matthew 5:19)
We sinful humans can never keep all of God’s laws all of the time because God’s laws call for purity and perfection. Scripture says that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Without Christ we are all guilty of breaking God’s laws. We are changed by having the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Spirit helps us want to fulfill Gods’ Law. God requires righteousness and Jesus through the cross has become our righteousness. He has fulfilled the Law in our place and He covers us with His righteousness so that we can stand before God.
Jesus goes on to say that it is a dangerous thing to not take the commandments in the Bible seriously. He warns us not to break Gods’ commands on purpose and even worse not to teach others to break Gods’ commands. Whoever does this, Jesus says, will be least in the kingdom. We cannot pick and choose which of God’s laws we want to follow and which we don’t. And worse yet to teach others to break the commands in Scripture that we don’t like. We do not want to build up with one hand and tear down with the other. Are the Christians who teach others to disregard Gods’ laws covering their light or passing on flavorless salt?
When we think of Gods’ laws we think of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:3-17) But Jesus spoke of keeping the Law and also the Prophets. The Jewish people knew what Jesus meant when He spoke of the Law and the Prophets. Over the many hundreds of years of Jewish history, God had sent many prophets to warn the Jewish nation against sin (usually idol worshipping and not helping the poor) ) and guide them into right living.
Some people argue that the Bible is filled with many laws that don’t pertain to us today. Perhaps that is true. There were laws about clean and un-clean food and ceremonial laws that the Jewish priests had to obey when they brought their sacrifices. More laws about cleanliness and protection from communicable disease. I don’t think Jesus was talking about those laws.
Jesus was asked which of Gods’ laws was the most important, and He answered with this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. All of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Jesus taught these three teachings about (1) his followers being salt and also (2) being light and about (3) the importance of obeying Gods’ commandments and that He came to fulfill the Law. He taught these three teachings while He was preaching the Sermon on the Mount. But Jesus was constantly teaching spiritual truths and wonderful stories and we will look at more of His teachings in the next few blogs. Stay tuned!