Matthew 5:13-16 – Disciples are Salty and Bright

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells His disciples about the characteristics of the citizens of the kingdom of God. Here in 5:13-16 He says, “You are the salt of the earth . . . you are the light of the world. A city set on a hill (and you are now that city set on a hill) cannot be hidden (for that is why the city is set on the hill). Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Immediately after telling His disciples that they will be persecuted if they identify themselves as His followers (5:10-12), Jesus tells them that they should be easy to identify because their salt will be boldly salty and their light will be distinctly bright. Their “salt” will be easily tasted by others and their light will be easily seen.
Here is a challenge and a paradox. The challenge is that to be a follower of Jesus means you will be persecuted, but despite the potential persecution, you are not to be secret and quiet about your allegiance to Jesus but are rather to be bold and vocal. To be a follower of Jesus means to be a vocal witness of Jesus, and a vocal witness is an easy target for persecution. The true believer is not hard to find. Rather, she is hard to miss. When they come asking, “Who here follows Jesus?” she is the first one in line. To obey Jesus and make disciples means we simultaneously make ourselves a target. This is the challenge for the believer.
There is also a paradox, in that, the way to grow the kingdom of God (preach the gospel) is also the way to attract the world’s resistance. The Lord works powerfully in the midst of public gospel proclamation.
Thus as an obvious and sanctified disciple, while you are a target for the world’s persecution, you will also be a witness for the Lord Jesus and be a living, breathing advertisement for the King.
What is Jesus doing with this kind of teaching? Right at the start of His ministry, Jesus is establishing the fact that being His disciple will bring persecution from the world, but also that His disciples need to be unashamed and obvious to the world. (Consider Phil. 2:15-16 and 2 Timothy 3:12.)
In other words, Jesus declares the cost of following Him and gives the command of what it means to follow Him, and in the same breath gives the benefits of following Him.
Finally, consider that those who are persecuted are not persecuted for how they live or because they are nice people, but they are persecuted for what they say and they are persecuted because they boldly follow Jesus.
Therefore, Let your light shine BEFORE MEN and let your salt be very salty. sdg RMB 8/24/2015

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