First Description now Prescription – Tuesday, 10th week in ordinary time – Mt 5:13-16
The intended hearers of Matthew’s first discourse are principally the disciples. So this passage is for you and me, plain and simple. The question being raised by Jesus is this; if we lose our Christian distinctiveness, how can we become Christian again? Jesus does this by giving us two assertions (verses 13 a, 14 a), two examples (13b and 14 b) and one commandment (verse 16). So this is not some suggestion that the Lord is making but a clear commandment (unlike the beatitudes)
Jesus’ instructions in these verses are statements of facts. He does not say you should be the light of the world, he says,” you are”! In doing so he gives us identity before behaviour. Our identity is that we are salt and light in the world. Knowing who we are, we have clarity of how we should behave.
The metaphors of Jesus have unfortunately to be explained to the modern world. What was once a common sense example is today obscured. Jesus did not need to give a commentary on the importance of salt or light, the metaphor was clear. Both these metaphors were both highly valued and important to daily living in the ancient world.
To site an example, the very word ‘salary’ comes from the word salt. Salt was a highly valued commodity and Roman soldiers were paid their salary in salt. Salt was used for seasoning and used as a preservative in a world that had never imagined a refrigerator.
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