Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down,
his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them,
saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be
satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the
peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who
are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and
utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and
be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the
prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth, but if salt
has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no
longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under
people’s feet. 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.
This is the most famous sermon ever preached, to come unto the ears
of men. Notice how it begins. It begins with eight beatitudes. I can’t
help but think the Lord Jesus was drawing from the Old Testament when he
picked up that word blessed and understood the psalms that begin with
that word blessed. Those eight beatitudes stress character. Generations
of Bible expositors have said, “The eight beatitudes are revolutionary.”
When you think of how the world describes the beautiful people in the
world they focus on the outward, the faces, they focus upon the body,
the outward man. But when Christ describes the most beautiful people he
focuses upon the God-fearing graces that have been planted in their
hearts by the Holy Spirit. Here are the most beautiful people in the
world: poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and
thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers
and those who are persecuted.
Then he also picks up two
metaphors, two graphic illustrations that were common everyday
essentials back in those days, salt and light. He uses them to describe
every child of God, every kingdom Christian. You are the light of the
world, you are the salt of the earth. What’s interesting here is that
this is in the verb tense of an indicative, not an imperative. That is
significant. He is saying, “This is who you are.” He is not telling them
what you should be or how you should behave, this is who you are. Just
like you’re a child of God, this is who you are. You are the salt of the
earth; you are the light of the world.
One of the saddest things
we could say about the last year or so due to the COVID 19 restrictions
is that there was minimal, or little or no face to face engagement.
There wasn’t the kind of engagement that we enjoyed with one another as a
church. We all know that that is not good for anybody, it is not good
for man to be alone. It wasn’t just the isolation from the people of
God, but even from the world. What I thought interesting during that
whole time frame is we saw more violence and more crime take place in
our cities I think in our life history. It seemed to me that it looked
like this country was almost imploding with anger, bitterness, and hate
before our very eyes.
We could point to the devil, I realize
that, he is the god of this world. We could point to human sin and
depravity, men have to take responsibility for what they do. But I also
think we should not forget the light/salt metaphor.
Christians are isolated from the world, it’s not good for the world.
This world didn’t experience the light of the gospel shining in their
eyes. They didn’t experience the salt of witness, Christian witness in
their schools, in their neighborhoods, in their cities and workplace;
and the world became a darker place.
Here is the point I want to
make: the world desperately needs Christian influence and gospel
witness. It is very clear from this sermon where Jesus gives these eight
beatitudes, he closes off on the beatitude of persecution. Blessed are
they that are persecuted. He wants for us to know that the world will
never love us. Let’s not kid ourselves. Persecution will be part and
parcel of Christian life and experience. But we need to pray that we
would shine like lights brighter. When the world gets darker we have
more opportunity to shine brighter. The world is going to notice us
more. And we are to be the salt of the earth. That salt was to add
flavor but it was also to retard decay or evil. We are not to hide our
lights under bushels and we are not to run away from the world, we are
not to hide from the world. The world needs Christian witness. You are
the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world. We are vital
preservatives in this society. That to a large degree explains America
for so many years. There is probably no country in all the world that
has had so much gospel lives and gospel souls.
We should pray,
Brethren that as some of you go back into the workplace, have more
engagement with the world at school, in the supermarket, in your
neighborhoods, sitting in restaurants, going to your local park, that we
would look and pray for ways to shine lights and be salt. You could say
these are evangelistic metaphors. They are calling us to be
redemptively engaged in this present world.