Appreciating the Beatitudes
Text: Matthew 5:13-16
One of the ways we can express appreciation of The Beatitudes is to memorize the text. Many have memorized The Shepherd’s Psalm (Psalm 23). Others have memorized The Travelers’ Psalm (Psalm 121). Still others have hidden significant Scriptural portions in their hearts. Well and good! Every effort should be made to memorize The Beatitudes. The text should be meditated upon frequently. Heartfelt prayers should arise naturally to the Lord for grace and strength to apply these challenging teachings in life!
PRACTICING THE BEATITUDES
The Beatitudes were however not meant to be a display of the brilliance of Jesus as a Teacher. They were meant to capture in a nutshell the essence of what Jesus stood for. He Himself embodied the virtues and principles He taught His disciples.
The ultimate challenge of the Beatitudes would be to practice them as a natural part of life. Till the Beatitudes are a wholesome part of life, the mere memorization of the words of Jesus would do very little for the disciples.
A POWERFUL CHALLENGE TO BE SALT OF THE EARTH
What inspiration Jesus gave as He spoke to His Disciples. His words were deeply profound, but they were also practical and down to earth! What would Jesus emphasize next after this brilliant and insightful message?
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt
loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned?
It is then good for nothing but to be thrown
out and trampled underfoot by men.”
What did Jesus mean when He told His disciples that they were “salt of the earth”? Let us consider the following thoughts.
1. The Focus of “Being”
Jesus told His Disciples that He would make them “fishers of men”. Yes, there would be activities like preaching and teaching. However, there was much more to the challenge of being fishers of men than mere activities. The greater challenge was “Being” and not just “Doing”.
To be salt of the earth causes the focus to be on “Being”. It does not preclude “Doing” things for the Lord. The emphasis on “Being” salt of the earth must not be missed. No one can be an effective disciple in active ministry if he does not concentrate on Being the disciple that he was meant to be.
If the disciple were to practise what Jesus taught in the Beatitudes he would be well on the way of Being salt of the earth.
2. A Distinctive Flavour
Jesus chose the imagery of salt most effectively. Everybody used salt! It’s properties and usages were well known. The Master-Teacher saw how this imagery could be put to good use as an illustration of what it means to be His disciple. One of the distinctive properties of salt is of course the fact that it has a salty flavour. In the early days, salt was processed quite crudely. Salt water was sieved carefully and salt crystals were left in the sun to be packed and sold. It was possible for salt to actually lose its distinct flavour! If this should happen, then the salt-crystals were thrown away. They were used to fill up potholes on the ground.
The lesson was clear. All who want to follow Jesus as His Disciples must be true followers. They must believe in Him as the Messiah. They must hide His teachings in their hearts. They would then stand out as His Disciples. Any pretense would soon be found out. That so-called disciple would then be like the salt that has lost its flavour, unfit for the Master’s use.
3. Many Definite Applications
Salt was used in a variety of ways. Let us consider some of the common uses of salt in those days (not far different from present day applications):-
a) To preserve food
Salt was used to preserve food. Meat, fish and even vegetables could be preserved when well seasoned with salt. Much good food would have been wasted if salt was not available as a preservative.
b) To season food
Dishes served on the table would have been much less palatable without salt as a seasoning. It was common to use table salt to give added taste.
c) As medicine
Salt was used widely to wash wounds. It was used to help treat certain skin ailments.
The point that Jesus wanted to make was clear. His disciples must function in many different ways. Anyone who claimed to be His disciples must be able to do more than just speak of having received salvation. He must and he will be able to prove himself most useful in the Lord’s service!
THE MANY NEEDS OF THE WORLD
As Jesus saw the multitudes, He could identify many obvious needs. They needed to know God better. The wavering needed to have a stronger faith. The sick needed people to care for them. The needs that He saw were not just limited to the multitudes who flocked to Him. The whole world stood in need of God. The challenge was obvious in the words that Jesus spoke. The disciples must seek to fulfil all that Jesus intended His disciples to be. They must be “salt of the earth”.