Jesus’ followers are finding that it is not easy to follow him. There are not many people in the early Church. Rome wields power freely and cares more about the empire than faith. These Jesus-followers are an “odd lot of fishermen, homemakers, tax collectors, and eventually, former Pharisees and assorted Greco-Romans” These Christians have no church building. They are un-organized. They have no stated goals or vision statements. Yet this ragtag group of people have followed Jesus of Nazareth for three years. They remember what Jesus has taught them in this brief span of time.
Jesus uses ordinary things in the world to make points about God and God’s love in the world. In Matthew’s gospel, he has just sat on a hill and told a big crowd of people who is is blessed, and who is not. After Jesus concludes what we call the Beatitudes, he turns to his followers and says, “Blessed are you when people 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 in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Thanks, Jesus. We’re going to be reviled and persecuted by people who will spread fake news about us. . .
Jesus then goes deeper as he teaches these people who follow him around Galilee. Who are they—what is their identity as Jesus-followers? If they follow Jesus, exactly what are they supposed to do to change the world? To teach them, Jesus uses ordinary things in the world around him. Here, he uses the ordinary, yet essential, elements of salt and light.
First, salt. In the ancient world, salt is an important preservative, highly prized, and used judiciously because it is expensive. “Salt brightens and sharpens other flavors already present” in food. In other words, salt is subtle, yet distinct. Whatever flavor a particular food has does not change dramatically. It’s just that salt, added at the right amount at the right time, “enlivens and enhances a meal’s other flavors. It brings them out. It makes them themselves, only more so.”