Dear Treasure Filled Jars of Clay,
There was no smoke. No blaring trumpets. No sound of God’s voice thundering from heaven.
Yet as the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee spoke in Capernaum’s synagogue, the hearers were still struck with amazement by his authority.
Perhaps little did many (any?) of them grasp that what they were experiencing was precisely what their forefathers had asked for: revelation from God proclaimed through a flesh and blood mediator that would not send them to death but win them to life.
What a beautiful connection between last Sunday’s first lesson (Deuteronomy 18) and gospel (Mark 1)! On the plains of Sinai, Israel pleaded with Moses that there might be another way for God to communicate with his people rather than making them melt in fear by the almost unveiled revelation of his holiness. They were convinced they couldn’t long endure that.
God said that desire on their part was good! In response he promised that when the great prophet would come he would not speak in a way that would make knees shake in terror but in a way that would melt hearts that would hear him in repentance and faith.
Suddenly, there he was in their synagogue: the long awaited prophet raised up from among their brothers, the Word incarnate speaking as God himself on earth in these last days (Hebrews 1:1-2). If only more of those gathered in Capernaum’s synagogue would have grasped why they were so struck by his authority. It was the same authority that had made Mt. Sinai shake that, as requested, had drawn near not to destroy them but to save them.
Do we grasp that? Do we, whose hands by divine calling are so often elbow-deep in the holy, recognize the awesome authority drawn near to us? What they asked for at Sinai was good, God said, but we can turn it into a curse (as human nature can with any blessing of God!) if we grow weary of the humble yet authoritative way God’s saving truth approaches us. How awful if we lose sight of how gracious it is that he draws near in humble means to save us rather than approaching us in clouds and smoke and fire to terrify us. Those who demand other signs from God authenticating his authority will finally get precisely that, but the fire will only consume them.
And do we grasp our double privilege? This humble yet saving authority is not merely communicated to us, but again and again through us! It is still not a matter of clouds and fire and billows of smoke, but of the Word, water, and bread and wine shared not by fiery angels but by imperfect clay jars: by you and me. Yes, you, my brother, an imperfect clay pot, are part of the grand continuation of the great Prophet’s authoritative ministry.