The Salt & Light Factor

Early in his Gospel, Matthew chronicles the peaceful seaside scene of Christ’s first sermon. Spread across the hillside in the breezy landscape of Galilee, Jesus and his disciples sat down among a throng of people. The rabbi from Nazareth opened his mouth and said,

You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people! You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:13–16)

Using two common images, Jesus captivated the imaginations of his audience, sharing with them a new vision for living: in him, they could change the world. Salt and light were precious commodities to those listeners. Salt not only brought healing balm to the sick and wounded but also became a savory enhancement to an otherwise bland, unappealing meal. Light, a treasure where oil was expensive, symbolized a valued comfort in the pitch-dark nights of the Galilean countryside. But both images point to a deeper truth.

Jesus’s teaching could cure the wounds of oppression and revive the spirits of the listless, left dry and bland from the harshness of sin. Salt quickly loses its benefit when left on the shelf; it’s worthy only of being tossed out. But when it’s fresh, it has power to transform and heal when spread across an open wound. Jesus’s words, when not dispersed, have no effect. Once they’re applied to a person’s life, however, transformation can occur. In the same way, people who have been transformed by the light that comes from Christ’s words then shine that light into darkness to dispel fear, lift discouragement, chase away demons, and pierce the deepest caverns of the human heart (Heb 4:12).

Those who believed Jesus that day in Galilee became authentic bearers of truth, with power to transform lives. And that salt and light factor remains true for us today. Salt works best when applied to wounds; light shines most brightly when set high on a hill. Only when that truth—the gospel of Jesus Christ—is made known and received by faith will people’s lives change.

Jesus prayed to his Father, “Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world” (John 17:17–18).

The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to equip women and men with a knowledge and understanding of God’s Word and send them forth to proclaim that truth—salt and light—to a wounded and dark world. Whether they realize it or not, people eagerly await the ministry of truth. When our graduates, faculty, and staff generously apply salt and brightly display light, our Father in heaven is glorified.

About the Contributors

Mark M. Yarbrough

Dr. Mark Yarbrough serves as the sixth President of Dallas Theological Seminary and is a professor of Bible Exposition. He has been in a variety of positions during his tenure at DTS: Research Assistant to the President, Executive Director of Information Technology, Associate Dean for External Education, Vice President for Communications, Academic Dean, and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

His love for the classroom draws him to the Bible Exposition department where he serves as Professor. Along with his responsibilities of leading DTS, he serves as an elder of Centerpoint Church in Mesquite and travels extensively leading tours and speaking at conference centers. Mark has recently authored Jonah: Beyond the Tale of a Whale and Tidings of Comfort and Joy. He has been married for thirty years to Jennifer, his high school sweetheart. They have four adult children, one son-in-law, and reside in Sunnyvale, Texas.