Salt, Light, and the Law: Reflections on our Sermon on the Mount Bible Study

Last night at our Lenten Bible Study, we focused on Mt. 5:13-32. I had hoped to get all the way through chapter 5 but that was not to be. We began by exploring the saying about salt. The scientists among us pointed out that salt can be adulterated but it can’t not be salt. Then we sought to understand the saying about salt via the saying about light. Both seem to be sayings directed at the disciples (Jesus first uses “you” in v. 11: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you”). This seems to suggest that the disciples by definition change the world, that their very presence and manner of life witness to the Reign of God.

Someone offered the parables as comparable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of the seeds…” I find this helpful because Jesus is holding up the disciples as members of the new community he’s calling into existence, a new community that is intended to usher in and witness the Reign of God.

We struggled with Jesus’ language in these verses. What should we understand as metaphorical; what should we take literally? That’s especially true when dealing with passages like vss 29-30: If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off. But if we are meant to understand this metaphorically, what about other things Jesus says, like love of enemy and turning the other cheek? Might Jesus be talking about our priorities here, what we ought to give up in order to follow him?

Next week, we’ll try to make it through chapter 5 and get into chapter 6.

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