Paul mentions a man who received such a powerful vision of God that he actually experienced Paradise. This would seem to be exactly the experience the super-apostles in verse 11 would look to as evidence of true apostleship. And such visions would confirm Paul’s apostleship to the Corinthians who are looking for miracles and power. While scholars believe that Paul is actually the man in the story he narrates, Paul chooses to boast only about his weakness.
Why does Paul boast about weakness? His experience with his “thorn” in the flesh, given to humble him, teaches him much about God’s power and what is worth boasting about. Christians have long debated what Paul’s thorn is: a physical disability, chronic condition, or some kind of addiction. Paul’s brief but vivid description of this weakness includes a feeling of being tormented. People who struggle with many kinds of physical or relational limitations identify with Paul’s situation.
Paul asks God three times to remove this thorn. God’s response to Paul includes two components. The first part of the answer is God’s grace, which God says is sufficient—enough. The second portion of God’s response to Paul juxtaposes power and weakness. Power in light of the Christian gospel is somehow—mysteriously and wondrously—perfected in everyday weakness. Jesus on the cross is the quintessential model of this unexpected and baffling juxtaposition, and Paul says he boasts in his weakness because he is eager to know God’s true power. Paul offers a provocative view of power: True power for everyday living comes in our weakness because God transforms our weakness into strength.
God of grace, teach me about the connections between my weaknesses, your grace, and your power. Amen.
The readings from the Hebrew scriptures this week celebrate the city of Jerusalem. This was the capital of the great King David, who united the ancient Israelites and built up the city. The psalmist praises Jerusalem using the image of Zion. Zion is a name used for earthly Jerusalem, but it is also a gesture toward a future day when God’s people will abide in a heavenly city. In Second Corinthians, Paul explains that even though he is an apostle, he still struggles like everyone else. Wild speculation surrounds the “thorn” that plagued Paul, but his point is that when he is weakest, God is strongest. In Mark we see God’s power working through Jesus, who sent out others to expand God’s healing work.
• Read 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10. The king of Israel exhibited the qualities of a shepherd. How do those qualities square with your experience with those in power?
• Read Psalm 48. Bring to mind a place where you experience God’s presence. Do you find yourself drawn there? Why?
• Read 2 Corinthians 12:2-10. When have you experienced a weakness becoming a source of power?
• Read Mark 6:1-13. When have you limited God’s power through your disbelief?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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