Any old pot
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. – 2 Corinthians 4:7
1 Timothy 1:12-16
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him,
13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.
14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.
15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all.
16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.
After a major military victory in the ancient Roman empire, a “triumph” was celebrated in the city of Rome. It was a ceremonial procession granted to victorious generals who drove in a chariot drawn by four horses. They would ride through the streets to the temple of Jupiter.
One of the most interesting parts of the triumph was that behind the victorious general in the chariot stood a slave, holding a golden crown over his head, and whispering to him throughout the procession, “Memento Mori” (Remember you are mortal) in the ears of the victorious general as he was paraded through the streets. The slave was reminding him that he is only a mere man even in triumphant victory.
Why does the Father choose to use fragile clay pots? Because the entire emphasis is on the contents and not on the pot itself.
The surpassing power is the Father’s alone and not ours. When we recognize our fragile weakness, it is exactly what the Father intended. He invites us to experience and exercise His surpassing power.
Someone asked St. Francis how he was able to accomplish so much. He replied, “This may be why: The Lord looked down from heaven and said, ‘Where can I find the weakest, littlest man on earth?’ Then he saw me and said, ‘I have found him, and he won’t be proud of it. He will see that I am only using him because of his insignificance’” (Hughes).
And what is the treasure? The evil one has brought an enveloping, all-encompassing darkness, and blindness to the hearts of men. The treasure is the illuminating, revealing power of the knowledge of God that cuts through and brings light, life, and the message of the gospel.
This is a core reality for the children of the Father. The Father’s children are never powerful in themselves. Instead they are fragile vessels in which the Father’s power is exhibited. Our utter frailty and weakness provide the ground for God’s power (Hughes).
The crushing experiences of life make us weaker still and allow the Father’s glory to shine forth in sublime power and majesty. Our weakness is necessary and essential to release and display the Father’s power.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
10 That is why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
In the Greek, the term translated clay is ostrakinos. It means “made of earthenware or clay” from the Greek word ostrakon, baked clay, potsherd, shell, burnt clay. Metaphorically it highlights that something is frail, fragile, breakable, lowly, inferior, or expendable.
An earthen vessel is “quintessentially fragile,” prone to breakage, easily chipped and cracked. A breakable vessel offers no protection for the treasure (except from dust and water). The image therefore serves to emphasize the contrast between our pitiful weakness and the great and awesome power of the Father (Garland).
It was not possible for wine to be stored in golden or silver vessels, but only in earthenware. Likewise, precious written copies of the Scriptures, and particularly the five books of Moses, were stored in sealable earthen vessels. Recall the Dead Sea Scrolls.
REFLECT & PRAY
Every child of the King is simply a “jar of clay;” it is the treasure within the vessel that gives the vessel its value.
Father, life is filled with so many trials and difficulties, I have often wondered why I am so weak, encumbered, sensitive, and so easily hurt and offended. Help me to take the focus off my weakness and put it on the treasure of Your presence within.
The Father made us the way we are so that we can do the work He wants us to do. We are vessels so that the Father might use us. We are earthen vessels so that we might depend on the Father’s power and not our own (Wiersbe).
Any old pot will do to serve the Father’s purpose. When the Lord Jesus Christ turned water into wine, the water was stored in lowly, undecorated, and most likely old, worn water pots that were no doubt dusty and dirty on the outside. They were not made of clay but rather stone. Archaeologists have found large goblet-shaped stone storage jars from this period in Jerusalem and elsewhere. The examples were lathe-cut from sizable single blocks of stone (ESV Notes). Each jar held two to three measures. A measure equaled roughly ten gallons. Thus each jar held from twenty to thirty gallons. Therefore, the six jars combined contained from 120 to 180 gallons. The point is they were just plain old pots.
What is important is that they were ready and available for service. The Lord Jesus Christ put them to good use. He asked that they be filled to the brim with water. The Lord Jesus Christ then turned the water into wine. This was done in behind the scenes. What He had done was revealed when the master of ceremonies tasted the wine. He remarked to the bridegroom that he had saved the best wine until the end of the feast (John 2:6-10).
Paul was not afraid of suffering or trial, because he knew that the Father would guard the vessel so long as Paul was guarding the treasure. The Father permits trials, controls trials, and uses trials for His own glory. God is glorified through weak vessels (Wiersbe).
All of God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on Him being with them (J. Hudson Taylor).
Are you feeling a bit lowly, worn, and run down? Then you might be just the pot the Lord Jesus Christ is looking for. In fact, He has probably already deposited tremendous treasure within. Pray that He may reveal the riches within. Permit Him to use them for His intended purpose.