Scripture: Matthew 5:13-20
Key Verse(s): You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (v. 14-16)
Observation: Matthew writes to a Jewish audience with an emphasis on Israel being God’s covenant people. Today’s passage comes immediately after what is called the Sermon on the Mount and before a litany of ethical teachings that go further than the original commandments. Therefore, the exhortation to be salt and light to all the earth and the whole world is to be interpreted as a continuation of keeping God’s commandments of old with an understanding of the new age represented by Jesus’ incarnation. Jesus states clearly that he has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (the summation of Israel’s covenant relationship with God) but to fulfill them. True disciples/Israelites will act as salt and light by continuing the works of justice, mercy, and love that Jesus begins in his earthly ministry. The purpose of these acts is not to gain salvation or the kingdom of God, that is a gift, but rather to lead others to give glory to God the Father. Moreover, if we have the light (Jesus) in us, we cannot hide it. A city on a hill can be seen from miles around. A lamp (flame) cannot be covered with a basket but will instead burn through the basket so that its light cannot be hidden.
Analysis: Today’s church or those who consider ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ are the heirs of this covenant relationship God establishes with Israel. As modern day Christians, we do well to remember our Jewish roots. We still hear God speaking to us as God spoke to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6) Discipleship includes a personal relationship with God but only in relation to how our relationship with God leads others to the Lord. Discipleship includes personal acts of devotion to God in response to the gift of righteousness but only in relation to how this devotion glorifies God not ourselves. Indeed, Matthew uses Greek grammar to place an emphasis on addressing the community by using the plural pronoun you. We are encouraged to read this passage as “You all together are the light of the world.” Since we are united in Jesus, we are also united in our works of justice, mercy, and love so that no one individual receives or seeks glory. Our lights shine to bring light to all the world as we work together and because our light is from God, it cannot be hidden.
Prayer: Lord God, heal the divisions that keep us from being your church. Teach us to be united in Jesus Christ. Help us to continue to hold your hand, so that we can be salt and light. Strengthen us to keep your commandment to love. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.