Luke 14:34 ‘Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?* 35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’
This is where I hit the pause button in today’s Gospel reading, at the concluding remarks from Jesus wherein he uses salt, figuratively, to wrap up his teaching on discipleship. And at this pause I’m momentarily relieved that the Spirit seems to be urging me to go down a ‘what is the significance of salt in scripture’ bunny trail.
I love those bunny trails and the prompts to investigate further. And I was especially excited to look into the connection between salt and the Word, having read just a few years ago a book that reported the history of salt, biblically and otherwise, (Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky).
But back to the gospel and what I thought was the prompt to unpack ‘salt.’ What has been one tough teaching on the cost of discipleship, Jesus ties up with a rather mild warning. The ‘or else’ – you do this or else you are not a true disciple – is not death, but uselessness. There’s no use for salt-less disciples in the kingdom.
Hmm. Down the bunny trail I go and I’m wondering at this point about what he means. I’m wondering what is behind the reference to salt. Is he speaking about salt as seasoning? Salt as preservative? Salt as abundant commodity or a precious mineral?
I go to my library. I read from Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible the explanation of salt. I find my Kurlansky book on Salt. I re-read sections of each. Interesting stuff. I come back to this blog to ‘edify’, unpack, wonder with you about salt and Jesus and discipleship.
But just as I begin to write, I am struck with a different whisper, an image really that stops me from writing – my eyes averting from this page – and the way I know as a Holy Spirit moment.
First I see a line a sort of graph – a horizontal line bracketed on one end by the word Law and on the other by the word Grace and on, above and below the line are an infinite number of dots that I see as portals – as stories – pericopes, if you will.
I gaze through the telescope at one little dot focusing in on the gospel story. I glimpse Jesus wrapping things up with the salt reference. Then I see Jesus taking my hand and gently pushing it to the left where I am able to focus on the assembled crowd, not on him, and thus onto the first part of the gospel story, and not the concluding remarks. Not on the whole salt thing.
And I see this crowd – in detail. I see their earnest, hopeful faces packed in together, all eyes on Jesus of Nazareth. And in their faces I see stressed, pained, quizzical expressions – not ironic or cynical – but earnestly pained as they try to make sense of what Jesus is teaching, looking at one another for assurance that they have heard him right.
And I see that none of them heard the whole bit about salt because they are all so shook up by the teaching before. Goes right over their heads as they wrestle with what they know – the Law – and what Jesus suggests they don’t know.
And now I’m there, too. The whole salt imagery thing has wafted over my head and I realize the Spirit has led me to this pause button, instead. I am to be thinking about discipleship. I am to hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people today in the teaching before the concluding remarks.
The teaching in which Jesus says, essentially, following me is not about the Law…I’m here to trump the Law. The Law was simply a convention that waiting, in God’s time, to be transcended by grace.
The Holy Spirit pauses me here to remind me I can’t rest on the easy stuff. I don’t get to go off on a research bunny trail about salt. I have to go back and deal with what Jesus was saying before.
I appreciated hearing in a sermon once how often Jesus does try to shock, using what we would today consider politically incorrect sound bites to cut through to the heart of the matter.
In that sermon by Andrew Farely, he reminds Christians that much of Jesus’ teaching is directed to people of the Law. So nearly all his teachings – from the Lord’s Prayer to Beatitudes to today’s moment with would-be disciples, his words – indeed He – needs to cut through the Law to illustrate His purpose. Jesus is there to cut through the Law- binding boundaries these God-fearing people had erected in their hearts. Boundaries Jesus was sent to transcend by Grace.
Hate your mother? Sell all your possessions? This is what it takes to be a disciple? In the absolute sense, no. But yes, at the same time.
To follow Jesus I can’t rest in the easy way.
The Holy Spirit has me paused here for a reason, today. Am I a disciple? Is my heart transformed? My life transformed by Him? I wonder. I wonder why He has me wondering.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.