TEXT: MATTHEW 5:13-20
YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH! YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To the church of God at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, called as saints…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Greek the word “you” is emphasized by its presence and position.  It is at the very head of each sentence.  It’s like Jesus is pointing directly at His disciples as He says you are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world.  Jesus had left the crowds.  His disciples had come to Him on the mountain.  “Disciples” often means the 12 called apostles (see 10:1, 2), but at times a larger number of followers. 


This text is one of those listed for reading when a pastor is ordained or installed to serve a congregation.  Ancient church fathers, even Dr. Martin Luther applied it first and foremost to those whom God sent out to publicly proclaim the Word, that is, to pastors.  The thought was clear – Those called to teach others must clearly denounce sin and error and must clearly proclaim the Gospel of free forgiveness in the blood of Christ. Their chief concern must be loving people by paying close attention to doctrine, to the truthfulness of God’s Word.  But the extended truth of this text is also clear, that is, Christians are also the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world. 




TEXT: MATTHEW 5:13-20
YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH! YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To the church of God at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, called as saints…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Greek the word “you” is emphasized by its presence and position.  It is at the very head of each sentence.  It’s like Jesus is pointing directly at His disciples as He says you are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world.  Jesus had left the crowds.  His disciples had come to Him on the mountain.  “Disciples” often means the 12 called apostles (see 10:1, 2), but at times a larger number of followers. 

This text is one of those listed for reading when a pastor is ordained or installed to serve a congregation.  Ancient church fathers, even Dr. Martin Luther applied it first and foremost to those whom God sent out to publicly proclaim the Word, that is, to pastors.  The thought was clear – Those called to teach others must clearly denounce sin and error and must clearly proclaim the Gospel of free forgiveness in the blood of Christ. Their chief concern must be loving people by paying close attention to doctrine, to the truthfulness of God’s Word.  But the extended truth of this text is also clear, that is, Christians are also the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world. 

How the earth needs to be salted!  How the world needs light!  It can only be done by those who are poor in spirit and yet possess the kingdom of heaven, those who are spiritually bankrupt and over against God make no claims.  As we heard last week, the beatitudes are not ethical demands, nor are they descriptions of different categories of people.  Those who beg are the very same as those who mourn, who hunger, who thirst, and who are pure in heart.  The beatitudes are a description of the baptismal life in Christ.  The word for “meek” “Blessed are the meek” is used only of Jesus in the Gospels.  The word “merciful” – “Blessed are the merciful” is used only one other time and then of Jesus.  The word “peacemakers” occurs nowhere else but here.  Yet Scripture calls Jesus our peace (Eph. 2:14).  For a human heart to apply these blessings to itself apart from the gift of Christ would not be meek or pure in heart but proud and deceitful of heart.

His blessings, ended rather roughly with “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  The bright and salty identity He here bestows then transitions to the main body of His sermon that specifies how His pastors and His people are salt and light.  In the process they are given a hint of why in this world others might revile them and speak evil of them.

Jesus assures us that He does not come to negate God’s revelation in the Old Testament or simply to underscore it as all that is needed.  Rather, He comes to fulfill so that…until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, (smallest letter) not a dot (smallest literary mark) will pass from the Law (Torah) until all is accomplished.  Next He sets forth the greater righteousness His disciples need – unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Then He proceeds with the sermon which He will bring to us here in greater detail in the next few weeks. 

For today, we will receive a taste of what He means for me as His pastor and you as His people in this place.  For in the sermon that Matthew records Jesus, as it were, takes the muzzle off the law and lets it loose on us.  You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  Here is why?

You are called to remarkable purity in Christ.  You are called to ordinary vocations but you are to live them in extraordinary ways.  You are to be an extraordinary husband.  You are to be an extraordinary wife (a child who obeys and honors their parents in everything).  You are to be a remarkable neighbor, faithful friend, and loyal citizen.  You are to be a generous giver who doesn’t blow the trumpet about your giving.  You are to have no anger, no lustful looking, and no greed or coveting in your heart.  You are to be a perfect prayer – asking and seeking and knocking – even for those who persecute you – but you aren’t suppose to let others know how much you pray.  You are to pray the Lord’s Prayer every day.  You are to be love in action for your enemies (anyone can try that for friends and family).  You are to turn the left cheek also if someone slaps you on the right cheek.  You are to honor marriage and keep the marriage bed pure.  (If you want to be reviled and spoken evil of by the wisdom of the world, just lovingly speak the salty truth of the sixth commandment in our culture)  You are to always say what you mean but not call attention to your sincerity with an oath.  You are to take a hint from the birds of the air and the lilies of the field and never be anxious, never worry but receive Gods’ daily care in perfect trust.  You are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  You are to speak faithfully the Word of God but not judge hidden motives of the heart.  You are to enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction. (If you want to be reviled and spoken evil of by the wisdom of the world just speak that salty truth in love)  You are to do all this, to let your light shine before others, pastor and people, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  

In other words, you are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world, so that others may be converted to the Christian faith.  For, glory is only given to the Father through the Son.  Hearts must know Jesus to know the Father rightly.  In Jesus, you are God’s means of blessing the world around you by bearing witness to Christ.

What amazing status put forward for those who heard Jesus on this mountain!  After all, there were Greek scholars and playwrights.  There were Jewish rabbis and scribes.  There was Caesar and powerful politicians in the Roman Senate and a governor named Pontius Pilate.  There were intellectual lights and social benefactors.  There was cross-cultural commerce and economic prosperity. There was entertainment of all kinds.  Bright lights seemed to be everywhere except perhaps with the former fishermen and other disciples listening to Jesus preach. 

Yet Jesus implies that all of it is darkness.  By telling His small group of disciples what He makes them, Jesus thereby teaches that the whole world is without light apart from them.  Why is this so?  It is so because Jesus has given them His Word.  The Gospel of Matthew ends with the risen Christ giving the eleven apostles a mandate.  They are to teach the baptized to keep all that He commanded them (Matthew 29:18-20).  They were made to be salt and light not by their personal brilliance and not by their polished behavior.  They were made salt and light simply by what Christ continued to give them – Himself and His Words.  It is what the Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to say this way, Now we have received not the spirit of the world but the spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 

So it is with pastors and hearers today.  In the book of Revelation, the seven lamp stands are seen to be the seven churches, that is, the whole Christian Church on earth (Rev. 1:12-20).  At other times when Jesus admonishes to put the lamp on the lamp stand, in has to do with the proper use of the Word of God (Lk. 8:16; 11:33).  Because Jesus gave Himself and His Words to His apostles and through them to His church, He could say to them and to us you are the light of the world.  Like the moon facing the sun and reflecting its glory, so Christ’s Church reflects the light of Christ into the world’s darkness.

Think this through today!  The most gifted intellectuals, the most generous millionaires, the most successful performers are not the light of the world.  With all the adoration and attention focused on them, they are not the light of the world.  You are the light of the world.  For where Christ and his Word are present, there is the light of God’s love and God’s forgiveness.

When you gather for weekly worship, you are the light of the world.  Who else says “Amen” to God’s presence to serve us?  Who else proclaims Christ’s death by eating and drinking His body and His blood.  When you go about your daily tasks, you are the light of the world.  Who else but the baptized are clothed with Christ and bears witness to the hope Christ gives?  And do not make the mistake of thinking that this light is seen most brightly when you are feeling bold and strong and think your middle name should be “sunshine”.  As St. Paul said, I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling. God’s strength is made perfect in weakness and where His strength is perfect, His light is shining.

Dear Christian, God here simply urges you to be what He has made you, in your own place in life, even in weakness and even in trembling.  You are not to invent self-chosen works that seem to sparkle.  The prophet Isaiah spoke of self-chosen fasts and outward humility.  God however, spoke of loosing the bonds of wickedness, of releasing the oppressed, of sharing our bread and clothing with our own flesh.  You see, there is evil to fight in the relationships of life.  We are to speak the truth in love right where we are and take the persecution that comes with it.  We are to give the release of forgiveness to those closest to us.  And when Jesus takes the muzzle off the law (as we heard before), we are aware that we are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect - the extraordinary spouse, the generous secret giver, of remarkable purity, perfect in prayer, joyful in contentment, free from anxiety, loving our enemies, seeking first God’s kingdom?  How bright do you think your light is shining?

If you aren’t at all satisfied with yourself – then blessed are you!  You are the light of the world!  Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!  If you have a hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Christ and know you must receive it as a gift, then blessed are you!  You are the light of the world!  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.  The Lord who spoke the Sermon on the Mount is here to speak His wisdom to you today.  It is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age who are doomed to pass away.

It is the wisdom of the creator of all light facing the darkness of noonday on Good Friday and then being laid in the thick darkness of a tomb.  It is the wisdom of a gracious exchange wherein He inherits the darkness of your heart and mind and soul and gives you the light of His.  Therefore your righteousness does outshine that of the Scribes and Pharisees like the sun outshines a flashlight.  The wisdom He speaks is the wisdom of His sacrifice in your stead and His bursting forth from the house of death in the early morning light of the third day.  It is the wisdom of Him whose word does what it says teaching you and feeding you and forgiving you today and saying you are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world! 

In His name; AMEN. 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a