Matthew 5: “Salt and Light”

Sermon on the Mount

From years of research and scholarly work, we have come to understand the section between Matthew 5-7 to be known as “The Sermon on the Mount.” This title is in reference to the multiple days Jesus taught on a hillside near the city of Capernaum. It’s here in this “sermon” that Jesus reveals the connection between the Law of Moses and His teaching of both repentance and forgiveness. Jesus’ hope is to move the people from a legalistic understanding of the law to a more sincere obedience by faith. Plainly put, this is where we can see Jesus trying to move people from Religion to Relationship.

It would have been easy for me to write a reflection on the Beatitudes, but that’s not the passage that caught my eye. Instead, I want us to look at the familiar portion of scripture between verse 13-16. If you’ve spent any time in the church, you’re probably familiar with the traditional reading the this passage in the King James, or NIV, but I want us to look at this with a fresh set of eyes. Let’s take a look at Matthew 5:13-16 from the Message.

Matthew 5:13-16 (MSG)

Before we jump into the implications this scripture has on us today, we need to first understand the context of the story.

To Who is Jesus Preaching?

Like I mentioned earlier, this particular passage and story is found right smack-dab in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, but what I didn’t indicate was that this sermon was only meant for 12 people. I know what you’re thinking, “say what? Pastor, scripture says that large crowds followed him wherever he went (v. 4:25). This is true, but keep reading… (5:1-2)

Matthew 5:1-2 (NLT) 1 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him,and he began to teach them (the disciples). 

This might not seem like the most important thing you’ve ever read in the bible, but for us as a body of seekers and believers, these are important words. We need to recognize that although Jesus’ audience was a large crowd, his teaching was directed to the disciples. Jesus wasn’t asking everyone who could hear him to do these things, he was looking at his rag tag group of stinky fishermen, zealots, and tax collectors to listen and do.

Salt and Light

So after Jesus works through what we know to be the Beatitudes, He follows up with two practical examples. Again, Jesus is a visual teacher in a world of visual learners and he uses to objects to make his point.

  • Object #1:   Salt
  • Object #2:   Light

The important thing to consider when reading about being salt and light is to remember who he is speaking too. Jesus was saying to the disciples, “You are the salt, You are the light of the world.” Jesus was making this personal for the disciples. It gets real personal when in verse 16 Jesus shares the ultimate “why.”

Matthew 5:16 (NLT) 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, SO THAT everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Can you imagine being a disciple and hearing all this for the first time? Can you imagine your teacher, your rabbi, saying these things in front of the people you were to live this out for? Remember, Jesus was teaching to the disciples, but there was a HUGE crowd listening in, including the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law.

So in front of ALL these people he says, let your light shine, not for your benefit, not for your glory, but for my Father’s. Oh, and by the way, do it for them.


And so today we are challenged by the same words to us individually:

  • (your name) is the salt of the earth
  • (your name) is the light of the world
  • In same way let (your name’s) good deeds shine out for all to see

Re-read the passage today and I want you to do something for me. Every time you see the word “you,” I want you to replace it with your name.