Walking with Jesus: 5th Sunday after the Epiphany


The season of Epiphany is all about the journey - it is a time when we get to Walk with Jesus and learn from him how it is to be a disciple.

It is a season of encouragement, wonder and risk taking with one goal: building up the kingdom of God!

The lectionary readings this Sunday are: Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12), Psalm 112:1-9, 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16), Matthew 5:13-20.

Rev. Rod Blanchard
Lubeck UMC
Little Kanawha District

“What the Kingdom Needs”

(Read: Matthew 5:13-20)

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

In early October of 2019, I had the privelege of walking several paths on the Mount of Beatitudes among the Galilean hills. This is the traditional (if not historic) site of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, found in the book of Matthew, chapters 5-7. As I made my way along one of the pathways, which was heavily bordered with lush vegetation, I was reminded of Jesus’ declaration to his disciples to be both salt and light in this world. Until that day, I had always read these words as a semi-attached observer. But now, these words came to me as a very personal plea. On that path, Jesus was saying to me, “You are created to be the salt and light of the world.”

Well…it is certainly a much easier (and safer) thing to engage with Scripture as an observer. But now, I felt Jesus inviting me to something a little closer; inviting me to a way of life that was a little more difficult and much less safe than that with which I was accustomed. Jesus was inviting me to a life which cannot be lived from the outside. As my heart-beat slowed down after this initial revelation, I was able to consider why this new walk with Jesus MUST find authentic existence within my life as a Christian. A journey of prayerful study and reflection has led me to a newly emerging sense of Christ’s claim and call on my life as a modern-day disciple.

Along this continuing journey, I have learned that, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am to preserve (sacrificially) the Gospel message and to be the lamp through which the holy light of Christ shines.[1] The Jewish Annotated New Testament reveals that the salt and light of Matthew symbolize purity and wisdom, respectively.[2] Therefore, I am first to preserve the purity of the Gospel message, without impeding its life-changing and life affirming message of reconciliation with God for all people. I sacrificially allow my human proclivities and prefernces to ebb, so that the pure message of the Gospel (salt) may flow. It is this pure message which reveals the holy wisdom (light) of God.

In Jesus’ time, the “Pharisees were noted as being the most righteous”[3] people in society, at least in human estimation. Matthew insists that the disciples’ righteousness (which is from God), must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Their righteousness must be purer and wiser. It must be the holy salt and light of God.

Likewise, the Spirit has been urging me to trust ever more deeply in the work God desires to do through me in Christ Jesus. It is tempting to live a Christian life based upon the perceived righteousness of others, but what will that profit me? Instead, I am called upon by Christ to live not according to my own idea of righteousness, but the very righteousness of Christ, made possible through surrender to the Holy Spirit.

There is something going on in this part of Jesus’ sermon which is far greater than me. Matthew, as can be witnessed throughout the book, has something bigger in mind. He repeatedly draws our attention to the building of the Kingdom of God. For me, this passage assumes that I am already a child of the living God, saved by grace through faith in Christ. But now that I am reconciled with God, what will I do? Could I go on with life as usual? Might I just coast along until I get to heaven? Does God really want something more from me? The answers to these last three question are, in particular order: Yes, yes and yes!

Yes! I could go on with life as usual, but that is an unthinkable choice now that God has awakened me to something deeper. Yes! I might coast along until that glad day I am summoned home, but I would niss out on something greater. Yes! I firmly assert that God is interested in something more from me. And it is fairly possibly, God is looking for more from your life as well. Matthew is primarily concerned with the building God’s kingdom in this world. You and I are invited to be the true salt and light of the Gospel.

In Jesus’ day, salt was an essential part of the recipe for preparing good soil in which the crops might grow. If the salt was absent from the nutritive mixture, it was strewn in the pasture, to be trampled under foot by the livestock. In order that crops might grow abundantly, they had need of the sunlight. God provides both of these needs. God has also provided a way by which the Gospel message may nurture and grow God’s kingdom on earth.

You and I are to be the salt and light, sent by God, to grow the kingdom of God. You are what the Kingdom needs. I am what the kingdom needs. Together, through Spirit’s power, you and I are just what God has planned to further the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. That news might enthrall us or give us great pause at its gravitas. But be sure of this: Jesus has declared it to be so; will he not also prepare and equip us for the blessed task of bringing the salt and light the word is in such desparate need of? With God’s help, we will be all that God has created us to be. With God’s help we will be the nutritive salt and shine the holy light in this world. With God’s help, you and I will be just What the Kindom Needs!

[1] Strong. Bible Hub. 2014. https://biblehub.com/kjvs/matthew/5.htm (accessed November 2019).

[2, 3] Levine, Amy-Jill, and Marc Zvi Brettler. "The Jewish Annotated Bible." 10-11. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.