Matthew 5:13-20

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

This section follows the beatitudes. The first three episodes, "You are salt and light,"form the first part of this section. The theme of the second section is the fulfillment of the law.

There are three verbal threads in the first section, “You are the salt of the earth/the light of the world. Salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste . . ." There are three components of the light: light of the world, gives light to all, let your light shine.

In the second section there are two verbal threads: "come to abolish/come not to abolish."The second verbal thread is: “whoever breaks one …and teaches others…will be called…in the kingdom of heaven." "Whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

If you notice the episodic structure—salt, light, lamp and the law: not abolish/fulfill, until all is accomplished and the verbal threads, it is easy to internalize. The sermon is composed to be memorable. The key to remembering and reciting the sermon is to focus on the structure and the emotional dynamics.

The first part is an affirmation of the great value of Jesus’ listeners. The probability is that Jesus' audiences were discouraged and depressed and thought that they could do nothing that would make any difference in the world. They were after all, subject to the Roman Empire and the Romans operated on the theory that the way to run an Empire is to dominate people and to keep them from rebelling by convincing them that they had little value and no power. It was very hard to resist this. So Jesus is actively resisting that mentality. The Romans thought peace comes through power and domination. Jesus taught that peace comes through the values and ways of life identified in the Beatitudes. True happiness comes from doing these ways of life happily and openly. So the emotional spirit of the first part is a spirit of encouragement and affirmation. Be aware when telling this story that Jesus is lifting the spirits of your listeners through his words and your delivery of those words. The words are addressed to listeners then and now, "You, you’re the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth."

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