The Savior’s Sermon: Let Your Light Shine
These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)
God’s Word for This Week
On a crystal-clear winter evening, it’s easy to believe that the full moon is producing the wonderful light that allows you to take a brisk walk through the woods without a flashlight. In reality, the moon is producing no light at all; instead, it is simply reflecting the light of the sun. When people notice Christians producing godly lives, it would be easy to pat them on the back and to give them the credit for the good things they do. In reality, God’s people are simply reflecting the good work of God’s Son, Jesus. Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12), and he is revealed through his people, so let your light shine! Jesus tells us: You are…so be. You are the light of the world, so be light for the earth. You are the salt of the earth, so be salt for it. Our calling as sons of God means our lives will reflect our new status, and the world around us will be blessed by us.
Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 58:5-9a
Why was the Lord upset with his Old Testament people?
The Lord was upset with his people because they were going through the motions, spiritually speaking. They thought they could please God through outward actions.
What kind of “fasting” is the Lord more interested in?
God calls his people to engage in works that reflect his love and mercy to others instead of engaging in mere religious ceremony.
What is the Lord’s fundamental concern?
The Lord calls us to serve him with hearts of faith (with the proper attitude), not with mere words and actions (Isaiah 29:13).
Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 24:14-24
To what does Joshua point the people when he encourages them to live faithful lives? (See 24:11-13)
Faith responds to God’s grace by promising to live as salt and light. Joshua pointed the people of Israel back to the gracious acts of God who had delivered them from every enemy. Now in possession of the Promised Land, God’s people could reflect on God’s great acts of grace and power in their lives. Seeing all God had done, the people vowed to Joshua to live as salt and light: “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.”
To what does the Bible point you when it gives you a similar command to live as salt and light?
As the children of God today, we see that God has defeated enemies far fiercer than the Amorites, Perizzites, and Canaanites. Sin, death, and the devil are vanquished. The gates to the heavenly promised land stand open. Looking at God’s great acts of grace and power, we cannot help but join in vowing our obedience to God. We will put away the gods of self and sin, and through the Spirit, we will yield our hearts and join with Joshua in his life of salt and light: As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
How did Paul first come to the Corinthians?
Paul came to Corinth as a trembling apostle of Jesus, without worldly eloquence, armed with a message (Christ-crucified) that lacked worldly wisdom and charm.
Why is the choice of Paul to be an apostle a surprise?
Though Paul’s writings are strongly worded, he seems to have lacked personal charisma (2 Corinthians 10:10). He describes himself elsewhere as a humble “jar of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
According to Paul, why was he chosen?
The Lord purposefully chooses “unimpressive” people like Paul to be his ambassadors so that people will put their faith in the message proclaimed (the gospel) rather than in the messenger.
Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Peter 2:9-12
What reasons does Peter give us to live like salt and light?
The call of God made us part of a new people in order that we might declare his praises. Peter tells us to live lives that are different from the world around us—as different as light is to darkness. Called out of the darkness, we live in this world like foreigners who know that this is not our home. Strangers to the world, we abstain from sin and live such good lives that even the pagans will have to give God glory for his work in our lives. Called into the wonderful light, we let that shine on everyone around us.
Gospel – Matthew 5:13-20
How does Jesus describe Christians in this world and why?
They are the salt of the earth and the light of the world because they reflect the “salt” and “light” of Jesus. Jesus reveals himself to the world through his people.
According to Jesus, why did he come into the world?
Jesus came not to abolish or overturn God’s order and will, revealed in his holy law. He came instead to fulfill it as God intended. Jesus has fulfilled his Father’s will perfectly as our substitute in order to save us from sin.
What warning does Jesus offer to people who believe that they lead God-pleasing lives apart from Jesus?
Holiness apart from faith in Jesus, requires us to keep God’s law perfectly, which is impossible for sinners like us. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5).