Jars of Clay

One of the most powerful images in the entire bible is Paul’s in our Epistle reading from 2 Corinthians 4:7 – “we have this treasure in Jars of Clay.”  It so perfectly captures the now and not yet existence of this world. We now have this treasure, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection, life eternal.  We have it. It is all ours in Christ. Yet we have it in jars of clay. Something that can be broken tomorrow, even accidentally. Something that was made for a common purpose.  Something that was not made to last.  The eternal in the temporal. The majestic in the common. The divine in the human.

And Paul continues to bring out the reality of this treasure being in jars of clay.  “We are afflicted in every way.” The treasure that we have does not spare us from suffering.  It does not spare us from having enemies or facing persecution. Neither does it spare us from everyday indignities. Everything that is fallen humanity’s is ours.  Everything except the final blow.  “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.” We have this treasure. Whatever the world might do to the clay jar, the treasure remains.  And if they break the jar, the fragrance spreads out revealing the eternity of Christ in us. Even ground to dust, we shall be called back on that last day.  For we are not crushed.

“Perplexed.” If you run across anyone who says they’ve got it all figured out, run, fast. The faith is always encountering things that just don’t seem right.  The ways of God are not our ways.  The desires of God are not always obvious. The sufferings of His people, if they didn’t perplex you, would be more troublesome. Even the Apostle Paul can be perplexed.  “What about my brothers according to the flesh (Romans 9)?” And if you understand his conclusion to that with complete clarity, please tell me.  The one thing I can tell you is that Paul does not despair.  “Perplexed, but not driven to despair.” Somehow, all Israel will be saved.  “Oh the depths and riches and wisdom and knowledge of God (Romans 11:33).”  Perplexed, not driven to despair.

“Persecuted, but not forsaken. Stuck down, but not destroyed.” It is so easy to give up. Clay is fragile. What it is carrying is more than it was meant to carry. But Christ is with us.  He walked the road first and has not left us.  And not even Satan has a weapon that can destroy us.  We can only destroy ourselves by dumping the treasure of filling ourselves with his lies.

“Carrying around the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies.”  God works by death and resurrection.  He is the God of creation and recreation. What he once made good, which has fallen, will be restored in perfection. Now we carry our cross. Not yet, but soon, the groaning of this world shall cease and the Sons of God shall be revealed, made manifest.  Made plain.  The treasure no longer carried in jars of clay, but the life of Jesus manifested in our bodies.  That resurrection body that nothing common to this world may trouble.

We are jars of clay, but we also have the treasure. You don’t get to forget either. So that all the glory belongs to God.  A God who finds the broken and common and bid us move up to a heavenly seat.

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