Summer on the Mount: Week 3

By: Reality SF

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Welcome and Opening Prayer:
Welcome the group and open in a quick prayer and 5 minutes of silence.

Following Jesus as Salt and Light:
This week focuses on the “Salt and Light” passage of Matthew 5:13-16. Using two images and metaphors of salt and light, Jesus instructs His disciples in the distinctive way of God’s Kingdom through a word puzzle. First, He identifies His disciples: “You are the salt of the earth…” and “You are the light of the world.” Secondly, He teases out the effects of salt and light (Jesus’ disciples) in the world. Ultimately, Jesus calls His people to be evident, useful, visible, and influential in the world.

Teaching in Word Puzzles:
Jesus notoriously teaches in ways that are often indirect or perhaps even cryptic. But what if He teaches His message indirectly in order to make His followers wrestle with understanding Him? As the Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (also a fan of cryptic messaging) explains in his Journals, “The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted.” This includes the task of interpreting Jesus’ words. These passages in Matthew 5:13-16 are word puzzles for His disciples to play with and solve, and this will be this week’s approach to interpreting and applying these passages.

Salt of the Earth:
Here’s an opportunity to play with Jesus’ word puzzle in v. 13 as a group. Read the following definitions and Scripture background for salt, which would have been familiar to Jesus’ original audience:

“Most NT references to salt are probably best understood as references to its preservative and disinfecting ability rather than to merely adding flavor” (Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 557).

The Greek word translated as “loses its saltiness” (NIV) is mōranthē. According to Strong’s Concordance, this verb carries three meanings: 1. To make foolish. 2. To make tasteless. 3. To make useless.

Large Group Discussion:
With these insights about the passage in mind, reread Matthew 5:13. What do you now see as Jesus’ message for His disciples?

Light of the World:
We see in the Scriptures that light is central to God’s character and kingdom. 1 John 1:5 expresses, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” God’s first act of creation is to declare “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3-4). Not only is light a broad theme, but we see the idea of the “light of the world” repeatedly. Isaiah calls Israel the light of the world (Isaiah 42:6 & 49:6). Jesus calls Himself the light of the world (John 8:12). And in the verse at hand, Jesus calls His disciples the light of the world. But what’s the point of all this light imagery?

To get in the mindset of Jesus’ first audience, we might consider how precious light was. In the first century, light came mostly from natural sources (sun and moon) or from constructed sources (lamp and fire). Thus, the idea of covering a lamp is an absolute absurdity: why would anyone ever cover a source of precious light? Jesus cautions His followers not to cover the lamp with a bowl, but instead to “let your light shine before others.”

Large Group Discussion:

  1. What does Jesus imply by “your light” shining before others? What is the light that Jesus is calling His disciples to display?
  2. What does it mean for the followers of Jesus not to be hidden but to be visible—like light to the world?
  3. How would you summarize the main points of these passages?
  4. What would it look like for your group to be salt and light to the world?

 

Read Matthew 7:24-27
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Jesus culminates His Sermon on the Mount with this parable about the importance of practically applying His teaching. Because of this, every week there will be an emphasis on practical application of what we learned as a group. Split into pairs and discuss, support one another, and then pray.

  1. What stood out to you from today’s discussion and from Sunday’s sermon?
  2. What are practical ways you can apply what you noticed? (For example, is there a conversation to have, a commitment to make, or request for help you need to make?)

 

Looking Ahead:
The sermon next Sunday, June 25th, will be from Matthew 5:17-26 on the topic of Righteousness & Anger. In order to be prepared for Sunday’s sermon and CG next week, try to commit to read these four verses daily and take note of how they resonate with you.