Why the need to tell disciples to shine?
Immediately after the introduction of the sermon on the mount—the joyful beatitudes—comes the great missions statement of Jesus, making his disciples salt and light in the world, Mt 5.13-15. Here is where the joy starts, in fulfilling the purpose of God for our lives in the world. This is how the sermon proper starts, with mission.
Why does Jesus need to tell his people to shine?
- Perhaps they may be afraid of persecution (see Mt 5.10-12).
- Perhaps they may fear not getting it right—perfectionism stops many a good work.
- Perhaps they are chasing after the joy of life in Christ separate from the joy of the mission.
- Perhaps the fast pace or the long to-do list loses the great goal that ought to permeate every activity.
Whatever the reason or risk of losing the mission, this great commandment early in the sermon directs us to the glorification of God as the be-all and do-all of the saint.
The call to shine is the invitation to do as Jesus did. In Mt 4.12-17 Jesus moved to Capernaum and taught. He brought light to that land. So he calls us to do the same.
That we enter into the work of Jesus is seen by setting side by side two amazing statements of the Lord.
- “I am the light of the world” Jn 8.12.
- “You are the light of the world” Mt 5.14.
It’s no coincidence that the gospel of Matthew contains early on, Mt 5.16, and in its last words, Mt 28.18-20, commands of commission.
The gospel is from start to finish a call to take upon ourselves the mission of Christ.
Shine your light. Glorify God. Put your life out there in the world to be seen, so that the love and power of the Lord may be embraced by more and more people.