Who and What are Disciples?
When you introduce yourself to someone, you probably go one of three routes: identity, responsibility, or authority. This means you introduce yourself as where you’re from, what you do, or who you do it for.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes these same aspects of disciples.
Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
At this point in time, Jesus is being questioned about His identity. In those verses, He tells listeners that He came to fulfill the Law (the Old Testament). Remember, believers at that time only had the Old Testament as a resource. Jesus says He came to fulfill those teachings and show that there is more to come. Jesus fulfills the overarching theme of redemption throughout the Old Testament. It all pointed to Him, including every promise of God.
1 John 5:3 “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” Our obedience to God is no longer a duty but a delight
Referring back to Matthew 5:20, how does our righteousness surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees? Those people were known as the teachers and guardians of the Law and would be considered the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven by other believers. This was an audacious statement for Jesus to make. Surpassing righteousness is contrary to the external religiosity of the Pharisees and scribes. They chose which laws were most important and enforced based on what provided the most advantage to them. Jesus presents beliefs that go deeper and pursue the heart that gladly submits to the authority of the scriptures because it is no burden to obey the one who loves you. With this transformed heart, we are carried forward towards Holiness and sanctification, not by earning or deserving, but by reflecting what we see in Christ.
In last week’s message, Matt described exactly who Jesus was speaking to when giving the Sermon on the Mount. These people were the sat on, spat upon, and ratted on. But Jesus calls them the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Matthew 5:13-15 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”
The “you” Jesus refers to is plural. A single grain of salt does not have any effect, but a whole salt shaker can make a big difference. A single light on its own may have some effect, but a room full of lights can show everything. Your faith is personal, but it is not private. You are joining as a citizen in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Salt was very valuable at this time and was even thought by some to have divine properties. Romans used salt to pay soldiers, and if a soldier did not do their duties, they were “not worth their salt.” Salt was used in covenants and to purify water throughout the Old Testament, but its primary purpose was to cure meat. It was vital and valuable. If it lost its saltiness, it would not have value. You are to be a preserving agent that prevents decay and enhances good without losing your saltiness. You have to get up close to make a difference. The world is in decay, and we are called to go out in it and be agents of preventative care.
How does this happen? Not with picket signs, bullhorns, or Facebook posts. It doesn’t happen by staying in the salt shaker surrounded by salt. Jesus models this by locking eyes with the unloveable, holding hands with the untouchable, listening to the abandoned, and eating meals with the condemned. Those people found compassion and joy in Him and wanted to know Him more. You are only as useful as you are used up. Which means it is going to be hard. You will look and act differently than everyone else because you do all things for the glory of God. There is nothing to keep you from looking into someone’s eyes and thinking, “This is someone Jesus died for. How can I love them? How can I serve them? What can I do?” We should be the last ones to throw in the towel.
Light is meant to be seen. You don’t light a lamp to cover it up. Jesus says light has one purpose: to illuminate. Light breaks through and drives out darkness. Light doesn’t know how to do anything else. When light shines, it makes places safer, more hospitable, and more attractive. Verse 16 contains the only command of that entire passage. Go and be light so that others can see and give glory to God. This is how you make a difference in the world.