Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sermo in Monte ~ Sermon on the Mount: The Salt of the Earth

Salt Along the Shore of the Dead Sea
Following the Teacher's discourse of blessedness, the Beatitudes, He further instructed His disciples, beginning with the metaphor of salt and its characteristics, so that they may understand the importance of why He called them to follow.

 If you remember, He first called them out to be “fishers of men”, and from there He discussed among a multitude of followers, including those He chose as His apostles, to live a life of humility, to show mercy, and to be righteous for His sake.


All of these attributes of the human heart are in contrast to those of a society favoring the proud, powerful, strong and wealthy.  At that time, the culture looked down on the humble, poor, and the weak. Although He was instructing His disciples, He was addressing all of the crowd. This instruction includes His believers of today living in a similar global society: one of decay, corruption, and evil.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men."
He had just traveled along the Sea of Galilee, a place known to the multitude. The upper and lower Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee come to an end at the Dead Sea. In the Bible, the Dead Sea is called the Salt Sea

Dwelling in caves near the Dead Sea is recorded in the Old Testament as having taken place before the Israelites came to Canaan, and extensively at the time of King David, who made it his retreat.   Just north of the Dead Sea is Jericho. Somewhere, perhaps on the southeastern shore, would be the cities mentioned in the Book of Genesis which were said to have been destroyed in the time of Abraham: Sodom and Gomorra (Genesis 18).  Abraham's nephew Lot escaped from Sodom (Genesis 19:21-22). The Dead Sea is said to have witnessed the extreme, supernatural fire that violently destroyed the sinners in Sodom and Gomorrah.
 
It is important to know the properties of salt to fully appreciate this reference to it.  The primary purpose is to preserve.  Salt can cure and preserve raw meat.  

Another value of salt is its antiseptic quality.  Not so long ago prior to medicinal antiseptics, salt was applied to broken skin for its healing properties.  As a matter of fact, the Dead Sea is well known for its high sodium chloride content as compared with the ocean, and its many minerals which promote healing. 

The flavor of salt creates an appetite, and also causes thirst.  Moments before He spoke about salt, He had just given His blessings to those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness".  This meaning is not lost to His disciples, nor to us as believers.  

Cure and preserve that which decays; take His teachings to the known world, thereby ridding the corrupt and evil; and create an appetite for Godly knowledge, a thirst for righteousness.  

"Mankind, lying in ignorance and wickedness, were a vast heap of unsavory stuff, ready to putrefy; but Christ sent forth his disciples, by their lives and doctrines, to season it with knowledge and grace, and so to render it acceptable to God."

Christ did not say, "You are to be the salt of the earth."  No, He stated, "You are the salt of the earth."  His disciples, having heard His teachings, were instructed to go out, not all together, but separately, like grains of salt.

And we, as Christians of today, are instructed to do likewise.  Sine sale, vita humana non potest degere ~ Without salt human life cannot be sustained.

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