Scripture:For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’s sake. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’s sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:5, 7, 11-12)
Reflection: According to Paul, the purpose of one’s mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. The focus of the mission is not on the self, as is usually the case in the modern world; it is, rather, the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord, and, consequently, those who do so are, like Paul, serving as a slave for Jesus’s sake. Paul compares the proclaimer of Jesus Christ to a clay jar, what would today be known as unfired or green clay. Once the potter creates a vessel out of mud, it must dry before it can be fired in a kiln; if it is not thoroughly dry, the moisture in it will cause it to explode when heated. Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are like unfired clay, a means for God’s work to be announced throughout the world. God is the potter who made the clay jar. God gives the believer the extraordinary power to proclaim that Jesus died and was raised. The proclaimer, the clay jar, is always in the process of dying, but the good news will never fade away. Even now the life of Jesus is etched in the mortal flesh of the proclaimer, and through his or her proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord, new life is stirred in the lives of the hearers.
Paul is adamant that Jesus be proclaimed as God’s anointed one who is owed everyone’s allegiance. He is master of the lives of those who believe that he died and God raised him from the dead. All who proclaim him are his slaves. Paul understands that God was at work in Jesus, the new Adam, and this work was revealed in the resurrection. Thus, God has made Jesus Christ Lord by raising him from the dead.
In a culture permeated with the proclamation of the self, Paul’s words serve as an antidote. From birth children are taught to proclaim themselves to others through their ability to spell words correctly, their natural talent for sports, their display of artistic creations. After high school a person gets a job with a sheet of paper listing all his or her previous work experience. College students are told to put an experience they have had on their curriculum vitae because it will look good to graduate schools. In a world consumed by consumerism people are always in the process of selling themselves. Paul declares that the purpose of the Christian’s mission involves no self-proclamation at all. The followers of Jesus proclaim him as Lord and themselves as his slaves.
Journal/Meditation: When have you most recently found yourself proclaiming yourself? When have you most recently found yourself declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord through your words and deeds?
Prayer: Father of Jesus Christ, I am but a clay jar, created by you to make known the death and resurrection of your Son. Grant that my deeds may be animated by the extraordinary power of your Holy Spirit. Grant that my words may proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord forever and ever. Amen.