Why Did Jesus Call Us to Be a City on a Hill? - The Sermon on the Mount Series, Part 13

Jesus immediately followed the Beatitudes, His explanation of Christ-like character, with four metaphors that show us how to live out that character. He taught: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16

The third metaphor, found in verse 14, is: “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” There is really no such thing as a secret disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus officially makes that impossible when He commissions His disciples to baptize every person who professes to be His disciple (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus is teaching here that if we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we will not be able to hide it. Jesus was the ultimate realist. He highly valued performance over profession. These four metaphors emphasize the reality of what we are rather than what we profess. We are salt, light, a city on a hill, and a candle. Mark tells us in his Gospel that people were so anxious to be with Jesus He had to search for secluded places to have some time alone with God because Who and what He was could not be hidden (Mark 7:24).

In the Beatitudes, Jesus told us to look inside. In these metaphors, He is essentially saying, “Now look around. Look around at your world and see the challenge and opportunity I’ve given you.  The character I’m forming in you by My grace will counter and heal a culture that is corrupting, a culture that does not have life and a culture that is in darkness.”


In what ways does your life stand out from the lives of those who do not know Jesus?

Take a moment to pray, thanking God for the opportunities He has given you to be light in the darkness. Ask for a bold witness for Him.


This post is adapted from a lesson of the Mini Bible College, an online study of the whole Bible. We highly recommend their audio resources and written materials, available in many languages, to anyone who wants a stronger understanding of the Bible.