Did Jesus really say that?
“Be tasty and shine!”
My family and I were in Florida not long ago. We spent a week in Orlando – aka Disney World/odnalro. Disney is fantastic but what my kids enjoy the most is swimming at the hotel pool. We did that quite often. You know it’s hot in Florida when the pool water is really warm. One afternoon we were swimming when we noticed a sky writer obviously in the sky! Before we even knew he or she for that matter was up there – someone had already written TRUST in huge capital letters in the sky. So now he starts writing his next word. First there’s a J and then an E – I bet you know the name already – JEHOSHAPHAT. Just kidding. JESSE. Sandra Bullock would disagree. (Jeanna) Actually the name was the name literally above all names. JESUS - I took a picture! Both my kids pointed to the sky and said – “Dad, isn’t that cool!” And you know what – I think it was cool.
I honestly think God thinks so too! God has given his church – that’s a collective group of people not a building HIS mission. We are to make disciples and not disciples of just anyone, but disciples of Jesus. That means God has given each of us a responsibility. Help people see Jesus in this life. Help people see Jesus in your life! And the logical question to ask now is HOW? How do I help people see Jesus/see God? If I had a plane that would be easy. I would just sky write. The people in Jesus day couldn’t do that either so let’s use a more conventional method. That method is found in Matthew 5. Today we begin an eight week message series entitled, “Did Jesus really say that?” We will go verse by verse from Matthew 5:13 to 5:48. I want to encourage you to take Jesus at his word even when he sounds wacky. Wacky words like, “Measure up, words can kill, gouge & chop, be faithful except… since you’ve smacked my right cheek you might as well smack the left one too and don’t forget Jesus’ words – “Be perfect!” Today we’ve going to begin at Matthew 5:13. Jesus says, “Be tasty and shine! Do you need a Bible today? We have one for you. Just raise your hand. Also please fill out your yellow card in your newsletter. Now one major difference with this Bible versus mine – it’s not a red letter edition! The red text indicates the actual words of Jesus. There’s allot of red here. Let’s read verses 13-16. Jesus said. Be proactive. Be intentional about helping people see me in your life. Matthew 5:13 is at the front end of what people call the Sermon on the Mount. Some scholars believe this is one long sermon. Most don’t. This is a series of sermons. The Gospel of Matthew contains five main sections of Jesus led teaching and they are chapters 5-7, 10, 13, 18 and chapters 24 & 25.[i] Matthew 4:23 tells us Jesus is teaching throughout Galilee. Galilee was like a county that included cities like Nazareth, Cana and Capernaum. There is a sloping hillside on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee not far from Capernaum. Now why do I say that? Because the Bible does not contradict geography or archaeology or history. You know history, Julius Caesar, Lebron James days in Cleveland and Frank Buckles – have you ever heard of Frank Buckles? Frank turned 109 on Feb 1 and he is the last living World War I Veteran.[ii] Some day when Frank dies will people believe WW I didn’t happen? Jesus is not here today physically, but some 2000 years ago Jesus spoke at a level spot on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Jesus really lived, died and rose again. Matthew 5:13 comes on the heels of the beatitudes. And just for clarity’s sake - a beatitude is a “declaration of blessedness.”[iii]
I have a friend. I do not want to mention his name because I might embarrass him. His name is Jim Russ. I’m not sure how long he’s been doing this, but in my mind it’s been quite awhile. I’ll see Jim and invariably I ask, “Jim, how are you doing?” And his response is, “I am blessed!” I believe he’s right. I am blessed too. Blessing supernaturally involves happiness. In verses 3-11 Jesus starts by saying happy are, fortunate are, blessed are the following people. People who recognize their need for God, who cry over their sin, who submit to authority, who desire righteousness, show mercy, maintain a pure heart, display peace and rejoice in the face of persecution.[iv] Mark Moore said, “The beatitudes describe the character of a Christian.” The rest of chapter 5 hinges on this fact. Conduct (that is behavior) follows character. I wonder if the crowd Jesus was speaking to ever asked the question “so what?” I mean Jesus, so what? You want us to be meek – to submit to authority. What in the world can meek people do? What can persecuted people do? Jesus tells them. You can change the world. Go back to Matthew 5:13a/14a. Jesus was speaking generally but now he gets specific. You can have influence on people - influence as life altering as salt & light. When you are poured out like salt – people see Jesus. And when you are lit like a lamp – people see Jesus. Let’s take salt first. Salt shows us how to stand up for God! Scholars tell us salt had several uses for people in Jesus day. Salt preserved food, purified sacrifices, gave flavor and created thirst.[v] Mark Moore believes that of all the uses for salt preserving and purifying[vi] make the most sense for followers of Jesus. People in Jesus day had no refrigerators. There were pools in Jesus’ day just no Whirlpool! Meat was covered in salt to preserve it – to make it last longer. You stand up for God when you stand up for his word. BUT HOW? How do you stand up for God’s word? Do you picket, send emails to legislators, create billboards, sky write or maybe form a grassroots committee and take it to the streets? Jesus gives us the answer. Go back to verse 13b. I did not know this but technically salt can’t lose its flavor. Sodium chloride is a resilient chemical. Salt doesn’t lose it flavor as much as it gets defiled or diluted. That’s what people in Jesus day would do. They would go down to the Dead Sea shore line and scrape up the white residue from the edge of the beach and sell it as salt. But it wasn’t salt entirely. This salt would be diluted with gypsum and other minerals[vii] making it almost useless – so people would do this. Find verse 13c again. If you want people to see Jesus in your life – don’t dilute the word of God. The best way to actually preserve the word of God (to stand up for God) is to do what the word says! Now illustration #2 makes even more sense. Salt helps us understand how to stand up for God. Light helps us understand how to stand out for God. Find verse 14a. Did Jesus really say that? It would make perfect sense if he said, “I am the light of the world,” which he did in John 8, but no, he in essence says to all Christ followers – SHINE in this world. Now how do we do that? 14b-16. A little boy asked his Dad one day, “Dad, do fireflies have shiny hineys?” A shiny hiney would make you stand out, but it won’t point people to God. Here’s how you shine for God. Do good. Do good by living out the word of God one day at a time. “Love is like bad medicine.” Scott Roeder/George Tiller. Here’s another example. My beloved Cleveland Indians were on the wrong end of Major League Baseball history this past week. A pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Armando Galarraga, was one out from throwing a perfect game. This means you get 27 batters up and 27 batters out. There are 2 outs in the 9th inning and Jason Donald hits a grounder which the 1st baseball fields and he throws to the pitcher covering the bag. The play was close in real time, but the umpire Jim Joyce, called the runner safe when he was clearly out – spoiling the perfect game. Now here’s what’s amazing. Joyce is not defending his call. He knows he made the wrong call. He made a mistake and he feels horrible. If you make a mistake – own up to it and you’ll stand out for God.
Joseph Stowell tells a story in his book Jesus Nation. It was six o'clock in the morning, and I had just finished my early run. As I passed the local Starbucks, I decided to stop in and get a couple cups of our favorite lattes and take them home to [my wife], who would be waking up. Since the café had just opened, there was only one other person in line in front of me. But it wasn't your ordinary wait-in-line-for-coffee drill. The guy in front of me was in a tense argument with the clerk. In loud and no uncertain terms, the customer was complaining that all he wanted was the copy of the New York Times that he was holding in one hand while he was waving a fifty-dollar bill in the other. The fight was over the fact that the clerk did not have enough change yet to break the fifty-dollar bill, which made it impossible for him to sell the paper.
It dawned on me that this was an early morning opportunity to commit one intentional act of [goodness] by demonstrating the excellence of the generous spirit of Jesus. So I said to the clerk, "Hey, put the paper on my bill; I'll buy it for him." This immediately defused the tension, and the grateful New York Times guy walked away saying, "Thanks a lot. All I have is yours!" Which evidently did not include his fifty-dollar bill.
Joe said, To my surprise, when the barista handed me my coffee, he said, "Mister, that was a really nice thing for you to do. This world would be a lot better place to live if more people were like you."
Now here’s what I love about that story. Joe Stowell didn’t know what to do or say after hearing that compliment. Stowell said he made some comment and then walked out the door, but after thinking about it more he would have said something like, "Well, this world would not be a better place if more people were like me. But it would be a better place if more people were like Jesus, because he taught me how to[viii]be kind…
Do you remember the sky writing picture I showed you earlier? Here it is again. I told you, my kids thought it was cool. I did too. But not everyone does. Some people at that pool clearly disagreed with what was written in the sky. Others however wondered, “Who is Jesus?” We do good deeds to help people come to understand who Jesus is.
There are some foods to me that have to have a little salt. Like corn on the cob, watermelon and French Fries. But too much salt tastes terrible and too much light hurts! Timothy Keller made an awesome observation. “When I bite into corn on the cob I do not say, That was great salt. No, I say, that was great corn on the cob. The salt just enhanced what was there.” We can’t make Jesus any better than he already is. We just help people see him!
[i] NIV Bible Study Notes, 1449
[ii] CNN Article - http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/last-doughboy.html
[iii] NIV Bible Study Notes, 1449
[iv] Logos Bible Software, Matthew 5 Research
[v] Mark Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 170
[vi] Mark Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 170
[vii] John MacArthur, MacArthur Bible Commentary, 1129
[viii] www.preachingtoday.com/Joseph Stowell, Jesus Nation, 80-81