You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
A Little Background
The Sermon on the Mount opened with Matthew 5:1 telling us that Jesus went to a level place, sat down with his disciples and began to teach them. It closes with Matthew 7:28, 29 telling us that the people were astonished at His teachings. It seems as though Jesus chose the location to sit down with the intent, first of all, to teach His disciples, but knowing also that He would attract a larger audience.
Jesus’ teachings are specifically targeted to those who will follow Him: those who will be believers. We who are readers of the 21st century have the advantage of knowing the rest of the story. We know that ultimately Jesus will go to the cross, taking the punishment of our sin on to Himself, and then rise from the dead. However, even after 3 ½ years of teaching, His disciples did not understand when Jesus foretold His death. Certainly the crowd would not be able to comprehend His future sacrificial atonement. We can look at the entire context and understand that salvation through faith in Jesus’ cross work is the entrance into God’s Kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ description of how life will be in His kingdom. It is a spiritual kingdom in which Jesus Christ reigns as king in the hearts of believers.
In the last post we saw that Jesus opened His sermon with the Beatitudes, or eight blessing statements. These were unusual “blessings”—to be poor in spirit, to be meek, to be persecuted, etc. The Beatitudes stand at the entrance of this Kingdom message pointing to the heart change that is necessary for Kingdom life. We must first recognize our own spiritual poverty. It is no wonder that the people declared that Jesus taught as one having authority unlike the scribes and Pharisees. In fact, Jesus very quickly challenged the Pharisees’ teachings.
Observations and Insights
“You are the salt of the earth...” In ancient times salt was so valuable that Roman soldiers were often paid with salt. Before industrialization there was no source or process for purifying salt; salt was harvested out of rock and other minerals containing many impurities. The salt would lose its moisture and turn to powder. When salt “lost its savor” it was no longer useful. Salt poured onto soil could damage the soil; therefore, the only “safe” place to toss spent salt was in a road way.
George W. Wright notes, “Salt is used to season food. It can be irritating to a wound, or it can create thirst in a person. It is also used as a preservative. Christian believers are called to be all of these things.” Jesus warns us that it is possible to lose the strength of our testimony.
“You are the light of the world...” The “Bible” that people had in Jesus’ day was the Torah, or Law of Moses. The Law is God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. Since the Pharisees kept and interpreted the Law, various noted Rabbis were called “the light of the world”. But now Jesus is calling these fishermen, tax collectors, and other common people the light of the world! The Greek word for light here is phos, and it is used here in the singular spoken to a group of people. Jesus is not saying that each person has his own divine spark or light. John identified Jesus as the light, and later Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” The picture here is like the sun and the moon. The moon gives light at night, but it has no source of light in itself. It reflects the light of the sun. We have no true light in ourselves. John the apostle said of John the baptizer, that he was not “that Light.” He also said that mankind hated the light because their deeds were evil.
The two pictures of salt and light are reminders that our lives are to be an active and effective witness for Jesus in the world. If Jesus had not rankled the Pharisees yet, what He said next would surely strike hard. Indeed, the context of the Sermon on the Mount, stands in bold opposition to the Pharisees religious system.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets...” Jesus declared that He would fulfill the Law and the Prophets. The emphasis here is on the law, which Jesus will continue to expound on. A jot and tittle were the little letters and serifs on Hebrew letters. In Jesus’ day, the Word of God was so revered that extreme, meticulous care was taken to copy it so that there were no errors in transcription. Jesus was emphasizing that He Himself would fulfill even the smallest detail. If Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, is the fulfillment of even the slightest detail of Scripture, shall I take a Scripture out of context and lead others into misunderstanding, “...Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so...”? How can I take any Scripture lightly? Neglecting God’s Word in light of Jesus’ statements here is like neglecting Jesus Himself.
“...unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees...” Perhaps Jesus gave at least some commendation to the Pharisees here for their adherence to the Law, but that is not His point. The Pharisees’ righteousness was their own personal effort to keep the details of the law, not because of their love for God, but for their own gain and boasting. The apostle Paul was himself a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He said that in regards to keeping the law he was blameless, but he had no righteousness in himself.
...concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:5b-10
We have no righteousness apart from Jesus’ righteousness. We receive that through faith in His cross work for us. Do we want to know the power of His resurrection? Then we must also be made conformable to His death, and know the fellowship of His suffering. He set aside His own power, authority and glory. Denying Himself he received our sin as His own. He took the punishment of death in our place and God received His sacrifice by raising Him from the dead. If He did that for me, then how can I cling to any so-called inherent goodness in my “self”? If I cling to my self-esteem, my personal rights, or my own identity, how then can I receive the righteousness of Christ? His cross work is the faith that that I stand upon. That is not only my power for living, but unless I receive it, I cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
 Note: Much of the Harmony readings will be pieced together like a puzzle putting the four Gospels together into one narrative. I am copying the order or format from A Simplified Harmony of the Gospels, George W. Wright, Holman Bible Publishers, 2001. However, I am using the New King James rather than the HCSB. This order is from the research of Wright and is open to discussion. Of course, you can also read the passages side by side separately if you prefer.
 This describes the Kingdom of God as we know it now. Ultimately, Jesus will return to earth and establish an eternal kingdom in which He will reign over all the earth.
 A soldier was said to be “worth his salt” when he performed his duties well. The word salary comes from the word salt.
 Although “rubbing salt in a wound” makes it feel worse, it also helps it heal faster!
 Phos is the root of the word phosphorus
 John 1:4, 5;6-9;, 3:19