1 Samuel 3:1-10 The Lord calls Samuel, Psalm 139:1-6,13-18, 2 Corinthians 4:5-12 Treasures in jars of clay
Mark 2:23 – 3:6 Lord of the Sabbath
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
I quite like earthenware things. Maybe it is the colour and texture of clay – fired or unfired, decorated or plain. Maybe I like earthen ware pots and plates and vases because they remind me of Jesus and the people of his time.
There is a famous scene in the third Indiana Jones movie, “The Last Crusade” starring Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and the late River Phoenix. Indi finally gets to the place where the treasured Holy Grail is. That is the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper. The problem is that there is an 800 year old knight of King Arthur’s round table guarding a plethora of chalices gathered on a large stone tablet in no particular order. The challenge is to pick the holy grail. If you choose wrongly, you die. If you choose rightly you gain everlasting healing and life.
There is a bad guy who has made it to this point too. The bad guy goes for the most decorative golden treasure looking chalice from which to drink the water of healing and eternal life. He chooses wrongly and ends up as dusty bones right before your eyes. Indi, thinks about it. He chooses an earthenware clay cup. Jesus was a tradie in an ancient Middle Easter town. Indi gets it right… He picked that the treasure would be in a clay cup.
Paul says here that we are like that earthenware cup – not so attractive, not so sturdy as the golden treasured cup, but containing the water of life from which we and others may drink for eternity.
He calls Christian people, or ‘cracked pots”: people who carry a great treasure in fragile unholy looking and often fragile clay vessels to ‘not lose heart’.
1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
We know what it is to lose heart.
8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Losing heart is feeling like you are in a rubbish compacter with the side slowly coming in at every angle upon you with inevitable suffocation and crushed bones going to happen.
Losing heart as a Christian is feeling ‘perplexed’ – in doubt about our survival or the purpose of is all; that feeling you get when you just know that you have not got what it takes to get through this experience, this decision, this task or make that goal.
Losing heart comes from being dismissed repeatedly, put down, shamed, embarrassed and unfairly criticized by others – particularly those who know you well, and who you respect or at least, normally expect their respect, at work or at home or school.
Paul knows all about this, particularly when dealing with this congregation in Corinth. Paul wrote once to defend the gospel and himself and offer guidance. It seems that this was largely rejected and the discrediting of him, his past as a persecutor of Christians and an angry man at large was ramped up another level by those who wanted the authority and power to lead this congregation. He writes again here in 2 Corinthians, and it is hard writing. You can tell by every word here.
He knows what it is to be “pressed on every side, crushed; perplexed, despair; 9 persecuted, abandoned; struck down, and destroyed”.
Sounds like enough to make even the great man of faith and missionary zeal ‘lose heart’ and give up! How about you?
What gets you down? What makes you give up trying? What is making it hard for you to trust the Lord, hear him speaking and pleasing him with your life? What seems like it is ‘crushing around you’ squashing the life out of you with no end in sight?
I can think of plenty of things that might make you feel “pressed on every side, crushed; perplexed, despair; 9 persecuted, abandoned; struck down, and destroyed”.
Betrayed by a respected person
Called unfair names.
Believed to be someone you are not.
Not loved as you once were.
A world of troubles on your radio and in your TV room nightly.
Watching him or her disintegrate before your eyes …
Another question: Where do you go when you are “pressed on every side, crushed; perplexed, despair; 9 persecuted, abandoned; struck down, and destroyed”?
That is the more important question for a Christian. It is not what happens to us that defines our future but to whom we go for our future.
Here’s where Paul goes.
We are fragile clay but we carry strong treasure. The treasure is of infinite value and we are valuable as we carry it. We ordinary cooking pots; we cracked pots are fragile, easily broken and not all that pleasing to the eye, but we carry gold, we carry life beyond the looks and the shape and the feelings. We are crack pots carrying gospel gold.
And we did not achieve this. We did not fill ourselves, become super useful ourselves or of high value ourselves. Our value is in what we carry not what carries it.
1 …. through God’s mercy we have this ministry.
An almighty King of the universe entered our clay world of cracks and fragility and was smashed on the rocks in our place so that we cracked pots shine light and life – his light and life.
We were given the load and its light that shows through us clay jars. We clay jars are now worth plenty, of great value, and great use to the potter who created us in his image and the Saviour who was broken for us.
And now we are carriers of the king.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
And what is our carrying purpose. Why do we do it? Why do we speak it? Why do we live with clear words of Jesus and actions to back it up? Why do we put ourselves in harm’s way for a little more dismissal, a little more put down, a little more risky seeking and giving of forgiveness so the relationship broken heals? So that he is revealed in our body.
10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
He is the one to be seen, not us. Like an umpire controlling the game, a coach leading the team, the artist producing the finished work, we are not the thing to see – the game is the thing to see, the team is thing to see, the art is the thing to look at.
We engage in this church life of reconciliation, witness, nurture of faith, sharing Jesus love and hope with people because we want with all our heart to be revealers of his body – his broken body, his resurrected body, his ascended body – the body of Christ, his church – who are his clay vessel of hope and forgiveness and life among people who can’t find or don’t want or desperately are seeking all three.
And here is the great reward of carrying the golden gospel –
People will have more chance of hearing God speaks not us. We will recede as we must, and he will shine like he does. And he will change people one by one.
We will be bold because we are free to be so (v12). We will not only defend ourselves but lay our lives down in joy because as we do they might see him, know him, hear him.
We cracked pots of golden gospel people will not lose heart (v1).
We will have no need to resort to tricking people or distort his words for our own appearances of “fine” or glory of self. No manipulation, no lies, no long-winded avoidance responses to people’s questions or comments.
So fellow cracked pots, speak and do without using any deception.
Carry the golden gospel in your body. It is only that golden gospel that gives cracked pots heart and purpose and joy.