THE PARABLES OF JESUS, #001
A Chronological Study

"You Are The Salt Of The Land."
Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34-35; Mark 9:50


A close-up of a baby

"To Him who opened His mouth in parables and
uttered things hidden since the creation of the world."

Psalm 78:2

 


 

INTRODUCTION
Important to the background of all of the lessons Jesus taught and all the dialogues that He had with the Jewish leadership of His time, is the remembrance of the angels of heaven. We know from the Scriptures that at some distant time in the long ago past there was a war in heaven. One third of God’s angels sided with the evil one and were cast down from heaven with no chance of forgiveness or salvation – ever. Why, because of their extreme high calling – to stand in the very presence of God almighty. The breaking of this extreme calling and honor warranted a no-forgiveness ever status.

Then… enter the nation of Israel bound by a covenant of Law at Mount Sinai. They were a nation chosen by God for the purpose of bringing a God relationship to the world around them. It was their responsibility to be holy under the Law of God. Their sacrificial system was to teach them and their world that man cannot be holy… but can be forgiven through the grace of God and the blood of the Lamb. If they were successful at God’s calling then He would establish an earthly kingdom and they would be His forever. But they failed. They failed not just once, but continually. They dishonored God, failed to keep His commandments, turned His grace into the worship of the Law, and turned away from Him to every foreign idol and god. 

Following the pattern of how God dealt with the waring angels, we should expect that God would, at least temporarily, forsake the Nation of Israel because of this. Six hundred years before Jesus’ birth Almighty God and His glory departed from the Jerusalem temple and never returned. God no longer dwelling among men – until Jesus came. 

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The Chariot of God

Coming to these parables we find Jesus speaking to the people of God bringing them their last opportunity as a nation to see and understand the grace and heart of God in an offering of the establishment of their promised kingdom. He made it clear in His teachings that this promised kingdom would not only be on earth, it would also be heavenly and eternal. He was there to bring forgiveness of sins and not to destroy the kingdom of Rome. 

As we begin our look at the Parables of Jesus, first, we need to remember that Jesus was not addressing Christians and the Church. He was addressing Jews who were part of the Nation of Israel that was in a covenant relationship with their God – they were under the Law of God. 

At this moment, in the text, we find that Jesus has gathered His following and begins to address them. In the background of our parable is the educated “teachers of the Law,” (Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees) who would stand and lecture their listeners on the importance of keeping the Law (as rewritten by them), and faithfully following the demands of formalistic ritual in every exact detail – they taught… in order to please God. 

Jesus now stands on the mountainside, slightly above His disciples -- as was the practice for a teacher of the Law in that day -- but instead of explaining the Law of God to them, He opens up His heart and begins to explain the Grace of God, and His kingdom, to them. The Gospel writer John reports, "No one has ever seen God. The only-begotten God [Jesus], who is in the bosom of the Father, He [Jesus] unfolds Him [the Father]" (John 1:18, Lit.)." Just a few verses into this sermon on the mount, Jesus, as the expected teacher of the Law turns to His disciples and says, "But I say to you...."

 

Over and over again, especially in the parables, Jesus tells -- in fact warns His disciples, "You, who have ears for hearing, be hearing these words." This message was not only for them then, but for us today, “You, who have ears for hearing, be hearing these words!”

The parables were told in a situation story manner. The truths told would seem for some to be child's nonsense. To others His words would speak to their wayward and rebellious hearts as religious leaders – condemning them. For there is more than one kind of audience that Jesus was speaking to. But to those He gave ears to hear the Gospel… they would receive understanding of some of the deepest desires of the Lord God for the instruction of those who were the recipients of His saving grace.

The parables are the direct words of Jesus! Now, as we begin this first parable - you, open your ears, sharpen your understanding, and hear what He has to say.
 


We’re using as an introductory parabolic message a text from Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" as the beginning of this series on the Parables… “Salt.” We’ll be teaching from the three locations where this parable is recorded: Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34-35; and Mark 9:50.

We’ll use each one of the three recordings of this parable to discuss a single particular direction that Jesus takes in all three. We’ll use Matthew 5:13 to teach the historical context of Jesus’ time and teaching of that parable. We’ll use Luke 14:34-35 to teach the current day context of the implications of His parable. And we’ll use Mark 9:50 to teach one very important command that Jesus makes to His disciples and followers. All three parables are about the same things, we’re just using this method to divide the lessons learned to help us remember what Jesus has to say to us and educate us to the interconnections of Jesus’ words throughout the scriptures.

Parable #001 - The Salt of the Land – Part-1
Matthew 5:13

[NASB]
Jesus Said:

     
   13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing any more, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot my man.

[Lit.]
Jesus Said:

        13 "You are right now being the salt-of-the-land; if the salt may be being insipid [lacking flavor, vigor, or interest] then with what will the land be salted? For it avails nothing except to be cast out, to be trampled by men.
  
[Comments on Matthew 5:13]
In the background of the Sermon on the Mount we need to remember that Jesus is teaching His disciples about the King and the kingdom of Christ in that day when His kingdom is set up at His second coming, and the characteristics of His eternal kingdom. Jesus' words concerning "salt" are primarily directed (in these verses) at the state of the nation of Israel, and specifically the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem. The Hebrew nation was put into existence in order to be "Salt" ("Light" and many other things to secure the nation as a People who belonged to Almighty God Yahweh). They were to be the nation that all the world were supposed to be pointed to as those who were the faithful family of God. But They were no longer "salt" and had become worthless in leading God's people, and the world, in repentance, righteousness, and salvation. The temporary casting aside of the Nation of Israel was at hand.

As we look at the words we see Jesus speaking to these Jews somewhere near Capernaum, just north-east of the sea of Galilee. In a later lesson we’ll hear that the Jews of Galilee were more faithful and worshipful than those of Judea and specifically Jerusalem. This is important because Jesus has gone there to establish His disciples and the following of a large number of people who believed who He was. Certainly the events of His later ministry (persecution, beatings, judgments, and death) would have taken a much shorter period of time – and would have left us with almost no New Testament. The completion of the New Testament was certainly in view in the plan of God. So His ministry begins in Galilee and His disciples were encouraged to write everything down!

What does Jesus mean. He’s telling these Jews what they knew, or should have known, about their place in the world. God had given this nation a covenantal place in the job of winning the nations around them to the belief in the One God Yahweh, and His grace driven forgiveness of sins by way of the sacrifice of “the lamb.” They were to be the “Salt” of the earth. They were to be the life preserving spice for all to partake and live.

So then Jesus directly ask them the question, “If the salt (you Jews) has lost all of that spice (the grace of God), and you can’t re-salty un-salty salt, then what good are you (for that purpose – salting the people of the land)?” Then He gives them the answer… “only good for being cast out and trampled by men.”

We spoke of these things in the introduction. A chosen nation with a holy special calling – to win the world through belief. Their failure in every respect over more than 1,440 years. What good was the then nation of Israel to the purposes of God? “only good for being cast out and trampled by men.”

We can also see in this parable a hint that if those who followed Jesus would believe and stand up in Judea against the then religious/political leadership and reform the culture to a Biblical standard – that the Messiah/King would lead them back into their calling as the salt of the earth. But this did not happen. We don’t see the masses of Galileans storming Jerusalem demanding a change in leadership and culture. Instead we see mobs of Judean people shouting, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” 


 

This parable is again repeated in Luke’s Gospel.

 

Luke 14:34-35
[NASB]


        34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
 
[Lit.]
        34 "Ideal, then, is salt. Yet if ever the salt may be being caused to be insipid, in what shall it be being seasoned?" 35 Neither is it fit for the land nor for the manure pile. Outside they are casting it. The one who has ears to be hearing, let him be hearing!
 
We look at these verses and wonder, am I salty? Have I lost my spicy flavor? Am I now only fit for the manure pile – to be cast out?

 

God's grace, reaching out to the Gentiles (everyone except the nation of Israel), has included all those who come to God through His Son through His dead sacrifice and resurrection to life as part of the New Covenant of the future nation of Israel. In this age we are a foreshadowing of the wonders of that New Covenant. So that the things Jesus teaches concerning His kingdom, and those who live there, apply to us as believing gentiles as well, but with a different context. We who believe are the foretaste of what is to come. We are also the heirs to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Here, in Chapter 14, verses 34-35, Jesus is speaking about those who are the kingdom recipients of the blessings of Matthew Chapter 5, verses 1-14 (blessed are the....). All that to say that these words of Jesus are intended for the Nation of Israel and to us who are “grafted in” and are the "foretaste" of those Kingdom blessings.

Turning from the immediate context of Jesus and the Jewish nation to our place and our context as we read these words much later in history – post His death and resurrection. From the Christian standpoint it will be good to remember that the bible clearly teaches that for the Christian “Once saved – always saved.” We also know that the bible teaches that there are some, perhaps many, who act saved, talk saved, and walk in a saved manner – but who are not lovers of Jesus and His heavenly Father, nor will they submit to the Lord’s Kingship in their lives. For their own reasons they pretend, they reject, and or they are ignorant of what it means to Love God with all their hearts, minds, and strength through the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the sacrifice of God’s anointed Son, Jesus.

So, when the Bible seemingly points a finger at you and says that such like you cannot be saved… please remember that if you’re IN-Christ… that finger may be a warning to you about cleaning up your act… but that finger is not directly pointed at you, but upon those who are not already saved under His grace. For IN-Christ you have the righteousness of God applied – eternally… Guaranteed – that is the promise of the Cross and the Resurrection, and it is sealed by the Holy Spirit.

My favorite example comes from the book of 1st Corinthians. It is there in Chapter 5 that a man is sleeping with his father’s wife – incest indeed. However, it’s important to remember that Paul speaks to that church in Chapter 1 and calls them “sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy people” [1:2]. Then a little later he writes, “He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on that day of our Lord Jesus Christ” [1:8]. “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters…” [1:10]. Brothers and sisters… [1:26], and so on throughout the book.

However, and there’s always a “however,” if you are caught up in sin - as a true believer - you are under the warnings of the Scriptures that you will be dealt with and sometimes even through death, in order that Christ’s Church may not suffer from your iniquity – but you will arrive directly in heaven – that is His promise to the truly saved. We’ll go deeper into this when we get to the Parable of the Sower, the Seeds, and The Soils.

As a personal and private study, please spend some deep study time in Ephesians, Chapter 1:1-14 – believe what you read there.

 

Here’s some thoughts about salt:

1. Salt is good.

2. I think that most would agree that salt tastes good, especially when it is used appropriately.
 

3. A bag of salt that is not salty... is of no use to anyone. 

4. If your salt is the Gospel, and you lose the Gospel in you (you turn away from Jesus), and you become "insipid," and you spurn the grace of God, how would you ever get it back?

5. Luke says it directly that if you lose your faith, you are not fit for witness / testimony / ministry nor for the manure pile! (not worth even to be flushed!).

6. As readers if these words in the days after Jesus’ death and resurrection, then If you have been called by Christ to be a witness, testimony, minister, etc. [a true believer], you are right now being salt of the land.

7. Salt is an integral element of our planet - thus the symbolism is that we [true believers] also are integral in our place just as the salt of the land.

8. You… are to be "salty." Work at being “salty.”

Therefore, we can see that this parable is a warning to those who have done something in their spiritual lives to seemingly enter into God’s precious grace through Jesus Christ, but are unwilling to actually submit to the sovereignty of God in true belief in His Son and Savior. Look deeply into yourself and make sure that your faith is genuine. Don’t wait until it’s too late.


This parable is again repeated in Mark’s Gospel.

Mark 9:50
[NASB]
Jesus Said:

 
        50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
 
[Lit.]
Jesus Said:


        50 "Salt tastes good, yet if that salt should be becoming unsalted? You, be having the seasoning of salt in yourselves, and be being at peace among one another."
 

As we look at Mark’s rendering of this parable we will place our attention on the last sentence.

 

“You, be having the seasoning of salt in yourselves, and be being at peace among one another.”

 

These words can be addressed to those Jews who heard Jesus say them, and they can be addressed to those of us who came after His death and resurrection an the forming of the Church.

 

“You, be having the seasoning of salt in yourselves.” Yes, the culture around you is godless for the most part. Therefore it is all the more important that you have the Spirit of God’s salty spice, have it abundantly, and spread it around liberally. “Be having it in yourself!” Do you have a friend, a neighbor, a moment in a check-out cue, an opportunity with your shopping cart, whatever… spread your saltiness and spice with those around you. If they don’t enjoy your spice, walk away. If they do, stay and chat a bit. Spread the grace of God. Let other’s know of your love for Him and what God has done for you through His Son. Spread the word!

 

Finally, “Be at peace among one another.” These words follow after Matthew’s telling of “The Beatitudes.” Look and find yourself in Jesus’ words:

Matthew 5:3-12
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad, because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way. 

You and all other believers are part of this list. Mark’s recording of Jesus’ words here encourage us to both having our own “saltiness” and “being at peace among one another.” That’s Jesus’ plan for the believer. It’s not, as the Jew’s thought, in keeping God’s law in every detail, for in Matthew 9:13 as Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 we find that God desires from us “mercy, not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,” and Jesus added at the end, “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

More good thoughts: 

1. If you are salt... then be salty, and be with other salties.

2. Understand your saltiness and the saltiness of other believers, and be at peace with them.

 

3. Salt is of only value when it is salty. Your life and ministry are only of value when they are active and of biblical content. 

4. The Christian Life is biblically active and full of content - if it is not... perhaps you are not biblical in your faith. 

5. Be Salty! Work at your faith and content, that you may be found to be faithful and effective. 

6. Your content - if biblical - will not conflict with the truth. Seek with others of faith for agreement and peace in the things of the Scriptures and the Christian Life to which you are called.

 

7. Develop a rich Biblical life in Christ. Study the Word of God. Follow good teachers. Have a consistent and lively prayer life. Fellowship with other true believers. Avoid building too strong attachments to unbelievers and secular co-workers. 

8. Work hard at your faith - it is more important than any other relationship you have.
 

9. You (plural - you and other believers) are to be like a great meal, where there is a blend of salty spices (the Gospel and the Word of God) and your saltiness is at peace with all the other salty spices. 

10. Then three final words: First, if you are truly among the saved, then work on your saltiness - get more "spice" into it and share your salt with the world around you. Second, there are Christians all around you and know that God has "spiced" many of them with additional flavors (because some people don't like one flavor, but enjoy another). Third, knowing about all the other salty spices... live in peace with all of them - they are all using their saltiness at the direction of The Lord -- just like you, only different.


 

A picture containing food, white, dessert, cream

DON'T BE TASTELESS

 


WRAP-UP COMMENTARY on Salt:
If you are "hearing" then it should already be obvious that "salt" refers to the Gospel quality of your witness, testimony, and ministry. It is your job to inhabit the land - the world full of unsaved people - and spread the Gospel. If your witness, testimony, and ministry have no Gospel quality to it... then your witness, testimony, and ministry is of absolutely no value to the world around you.

 



FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS - W/O Answers
1. What do you need to have in order to hear what the parables teach?

 
2. What do you need from God to hear what the parables teach?

 
3. What are the two kinds of salt in the parable?

 
4. If Salt becomes tasteless, what is it good for?

 
5. As a believer are you covered by the New Covenant?


6. When will the New Covenant come into full force?

 
7. Mark tells us to have what with fellow believers?

 
8. Mark tells us to be what with fellow believers?

 
9. What do you need to understand the parables?

 
10. What three Gospels contain this parable?


 

 

FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS - With Answers
1. What do you need to have in order to hear what the parables teach?
You need ears that can hear what the parables teach.
 
2. What do you need from God to hear what the parables teach?
You need Biblical Faith
 
3. What are the two kinds of salt in the parable?
Salty Salt and Tasteless Salt
 
4. If Salt becomes tasteless, what is it good for?
To be thrown out or trampled under foot
 
5. As a believer are you covered by the New Covenant?
Yes, you are a "foretaste" of what is to come

6. When will the New Covenant come into full force?
At Jesus' second coming (the Kingdom Age)

 

7. Mark tells us to have what with fellow believers?
Salt, to be salty among each other
 
8. Mark tells us to be what with fellow believers?
To be at peace with one another (in our saltiness)
 
9. What do you need to understand the parables?
Ears that hear (Jesus' meaning, God's message)
 
10. What three Gospels contain this parable?
Matthew, Mark Luke

 


 

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