Jesus of Galilee
The Old Testament, or more literally the Old Covenant, acts as a platform for the New, in that many of the things spoken by Jesus require some knowledge of Hebrew beliefs and customs in order to understand his references.
Salt is one example. We know it as a seasoning for food as did Job, who asked, "Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt?" We are also familiar with its purifying and preservative qualities. But perhaps we did not know that God commanded Aaron, the first Hebrew high priest: "With all your offerings, you shall offer salt."
And in Numbers 18:19, he said to Aaron, "All the holy offerings which the people of Israel set aside for the Lord I give to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due; this is a perpetual covenant of SALT before the Lord for you and your descendants."
The Lord said to Aaron, "You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any holding among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel." This last sentence is an interesting statement in regard to the vow of poverty for every priest.
It appears that salt has significance in the sense of making a matter binding upon one. Even today the Arabs will not take salt with one whom they hold to be an enemy, for it is considered a seal of friendship, of sincerity, and of good will when offered to a guest. And they will say, how can I lift my hand against one with whom I have taken salt? In alchemy, salt is a symbol of order and truth, or crystallized form, and of the element Earth.
Newborn Hebrew babies were rubbed with salt, perhaps for its purifying and astringent or toughening qualities.
"Ye are the salt of the earth," Jesus said. "But if salt has lost its savor, how shall its saltness be restored? It is fit neither for the land nor the dunghill, and is no longer good for anything except to be cast out and trodden under foot by men. Every one will be salted with fire, and every sacrifice will be salted with salt. Salt is good, but if it has lost its saltness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
In order to be useful in his work, they must retain the essence of their function as men of God, even as a bird must retain its instincts to fly if it would function as a carrier pigeon. Otherwise it might be cast into the barnyard. If a leader has lost his authority, where shall he get it again?
Animal sacrifices will be sprinkled with material salt, but man must be seasoned with the fire of spirit, if he would be acceptable to God. In order to give this unto others, the disciple of Christ must first have and hold fast to this spiritual fire within himself. Otherwise he could give it to no one and should he lose it, his function of giving it to others would be gone.
The fire wherewith man is salted is designed to preserve him in a state of spiritual incorruption. This same fire of spirit shines forth from the disciples for all to see. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hid."
"Men do not light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
And he said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear." The very nature of light is to radiate, and to give light out, not to close it in. It must be used and distributed.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! But if your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright as when a lamp with its rays gives you light."
If you see things in a spiritual light, as good, you will gain light within. But if your eye reports only darkness, this keeps the light from coming in.
"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not a yod, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
"Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus maintained the sanctity of the law and the prophets; he was not come to destroy, but to fulfill; he was no revolutionist but a divine reformer; the Law which he had proclaimed was to fulfill that which had begun and make perfect that which was imperfect. He could not deny that which led to his presence here any more than an apple can deny its tree.
Jesus was the fruition and fulfillment of the purpose of the tree. No part of its function may be left out, and the Law must be followed to the last "jot and tittle" to bring this about; only then could it be pronounced finished, and a New Law brought forth.
The new way demanded more of a man than the old, but in a different way. Whereas they were before bound in all their physical actions, as laid down by the scribes and Pharisees, now they must start going beyond outer observances which are visible to man and even watch their thoughts and desires. For God judges the inmost heart, and thoughts are as powerful as actions. Jesus said, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
"You have heard that it was said of the men of old, 'You shall not kill; but whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is even angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.
"So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
The sooner you can make peace and straighten things out in any situation, the better it will go for all concerned. For Jesus said, "And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make friends quickly while you are yet on the way. Make an effort to settle with him before you reach the court, lest your accuser drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to an officer of the guard, and he put you in prison. Truly I say to you, then you will never get out till you have paid the very last penny."
This can be easily understood even in small annoyances. Give them no root in your mind or heart, lest they grow to major proportions.
You can test this by tracing back some block or controversy with another person to a very small beginning which could have been obliterated then without any major operation. These directives of Jesus are for our benefit. Every one is a loving guideline to a fuller and happier life.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
This does not mean that you need feel guilty about an attraction toward someone. Glorify God that the Life Force which comes from Him is able to flow through you; and direct the energy toward upliftment and good.
Do not degrade it by giving your body domination over the rest of you, even in your mind. The man must drive the horse; the horse must not drive the man. The Life Force involves the continuance of God's creation, not only on the bodily level, but the spiritual as well.
Jesus went on to say, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
"Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
"Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply, 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil."
He was not referring here to taking a vow. A vow is a linking together, and "to vow" means to solemnly promise something, usually before God. But "to swear" generally denotes an oath, a declaration or affirmation of the truth of a matter while invoking the name of God or a deity as warranty. You have not that right over God, or over any other thing. Moreover, man had too often in former times both foolishly and cruelly sworn away lives and properties, gambling on his own word.
Later on, when Jesus stood before the high priest Caiaphas in Jerusalem, the priest would urge Jesus to swear, to attest to the statement of the witnesses. Caiaphas said to him, "I adjure you, by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus answered him then, "You have said so." In saying "you" and not "I," Jesus did not submit to the oath but left it with the high priest.
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." In judging another, you are judging yourself.
You cannot know all the reasons at the other end of any situation, and by condemning them, however bad the appearance, you attach yourself to the results, so if you really want to find freedom, be free from judgment -- for that is where freedom really starts!
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye?
"Thou hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Physician heal thyself before you step out to heal others, and learn before you teach.)
"Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back."