by Xylia Sparks-Davis on 03/26/13
Treasures in Jars of Clay
2 Corinthians 4:7
I’m a student of Biblical History and am absolutely fascinated with the First century, the century in which Jesus lived and the church was born, its politics and culture and how those influences that surrounded the new believers affected the Jesus Movement and the growth of the church. So when I study the New Testament this happens to flow out of me whether I want it to or not.
Let’s read some of assignment together - 2 Corinthians chapter 4
4 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—
In reading our text, a certain verse rang true with me and I am going to park there for a minute. Verse 7. Here it is in the New International version.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
When I read this verse, two things come to mind – one is an experience and the other is an image. Do you mind if share them with you? Thanks. First the experience. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to see the Dead Sea Scrolls when they toured North Carolina. In fact, it was my engagement present from my husband.
These scrolls of Holy Scripture were persevered by a group called the Essences who lived in Qumran in the Judean desert. They took upon themselves the task of copying the word of God with excellence. If a scroll had even one mistake, the entire scroll was banished to the fire. It had to be destroyed so it could not be later read and compromise the accuracy of the word of God. When a scribe had completed a scroll without errors, the scroll was stored in a clay jar.
In the Essences day as well as Paul’s, a clay jar was where a person would hide their dearest treasures. Clay jars were the ancient equivalent of safe deposit boxes. Whether it was wine, oil, or jewels - anything of high value was placed in a clay jar. These jars were not adorned. The jars were chosen not because they were beautiful. You could walk right past these jars and never know there was a treasure inside. It was what was inside the jars that solely gave them value.
We are jars of clay. Our true beauty does not come from our outward appearance, but from the indwelling of the Word of God (who is Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. Though the clay jars of the first century were meant to hide treasures, our prized possession, the word of God, is meant to be seen, touched and felt. Our jars our meant to be cracked.
Just our Creator commanded light to shine out of darkness so are we to shine as light in a darkened world. The cracks in our jars allow His light to be revealed. What cracks our jars? The challenges of life and the persecution of the adversary. Poor Satan, he thinks that when brings trouble into our lives to weigh us down and make us give up on Christ. Instead the issues our allowed in our lives to reveal the glory of God under pressure and unblind the eye of the unbeliever. We can say like Paul that
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.
The treasure inside us is too precious for us to let go.
I want to leave you with the image I spoke of at the beginning. Click the link to see the image http://www.umilta.net/veneranda1.jpg. The photo is of a wall relief found in the underground catacombs of Domatilla in Rome. Domatilla’s husband was a Christian and was martyred by her uncle- the Emperor Domitian. Her catacomb was place where the early church hid from persecution. The painting in her catacomb dates back to that era. The woman on the right is believed to be Petronilla, the daughter of the apostle Peter. Scrolls were usually painted in the types of artwork to state that the person was a teacher or proclaimer of the message of Jesus.
Pertornilla was a believer in Christ, just like you and me. She witnessed the change that Christ had in the life of her father. She knew of His healing power through the restoration of her grandmother. Just as we have seen Him change our lives and the lives of people, we love. She did more than take her family’s word for it; she stood for Christ on her own and shared His goodness to those she encountered.
Why am I telling you about Petronilla? Because she did not hold high office in the church neither did she have any secret knowledge about God that we do not possess. She did not say that because “I am not a leader” that my testimony is less valuable. She just shared what she knew about her Jesus. Like Pertonilla, it is our personal testimonies that make the life changing power of God real for others.
We speak not of ourselves but of Christ. We are called to do the same as Pertonilla. It is because of her testimony about Christ that Petronilla is remembered. That painting is the one that covered her grave for 8 centuries To embrace the Great Commission that she embraced to tell to others the story of the Christ who changed our lives. The treasure inside us is too precious to keep to ourselves.