Night Shyamalan’s film ‘Unbreakable’ begins with a horrific train wreck. There were 132 passengers on board and only one survives the crash. David Dunn, played by Bruce Willis, not only survives the train wreck, but he walks away without a scratch. He wonders how he walked away unharmed from an accident, that no one should have survived.
Into Dunn’s life comes an eccentric comic book collector named Elijah, who seems equally intrigued by Dunn’s survival. Elijah has reason to be interested; he was born with a rare genetic disorder that leaves his bones especially brittle—so brittle, in fact, that he is known as Mr. Glass; played by Samuel L. Jackson.
David Dunn, on the other hand, has never broken a bone, never had stitches, never pulled a muscle; never been bruised; never had the flu – and has never even taken a sick day. Elijah tells David that he’s not like other people; he’s been given an extraordinary gift that he cannot keep to himself, but must be employed in the service and protection of others.
Although David still maintains that he is “an ordinary man”, clearly he is more like a modern day superman. He’s literally unbreakable. While it makes for a great story, it’s been said that we are a lot more like Mr. Glass than David Dunn.
We’re fragile and susceptible to disease; accident, injury, violence, germs, age and natural disaster. We are, as Paul puts it, like jars of clay. But that is not the end of the story.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 reads, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
While it is true, that when Paul talks about our bodies being ‘jars of clay’, he means our lives are temporary, fragile and we are at times prone to sickness and sin, yet he does-not carry his analogy as far as the Greeks. They said our bodies (in essence many of our lives) are useless, insignificant, something to be quickly discarded and easily replaced. That is the way they treated slaves and the sick.
While we never want to confuse the vessel with the treasure; that does not mean the vessel is insignificant. In Genesis 2:7, we read, that we were created from the dirt and the clay of the ground. But God also declares that mankind is made in His image and likeness. And later, after seeing all he created God said, this is very good.
That places a value on ‘every human being’; one that later Jesus was willing to give his life for. God would never create something worthless; that had no purpose. We are created, who we are, with our bodies — for a reason. In other words, our flaws don’t make us disposable.
A child born with downs syndrome ‘still has worth’. A homeless person should still be treated with dignity. It means understanding that everyone has something to contribute.
No one should be dehumanized or devalued. While we are alive, every one of us has ‘great potential’.
Think of the people that Jesus often connected with; a Samaritan, a prostitute, a murderer, – lepers, tax collectors, a womanizer, a drunk, cheats and scoundrels. These were folks that ‘many would ignored or despised’, yet they were world changers, despite their lives and appearances.
It was Jesus who said in John 8:12, “I Am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We are barriers of the light of God’s grace. Tell me, who puts something of value into something completely useless? No one. The truth is, we are worth more than we know.
I don’t say this to give you a big head, I say this to counter all the other claims and excuses we use. Have you ever said, “God could never use me.” Or how about, “I have no gifts.” Maybe, “God could never forgive or love me?” In essence, you are saying God created trash – and he never does.
This was what Paul was battling in Corinth. Some leaders dismissed Paul ‘saying in so many words’, “Paul is a cracked pot. He doesn’t speak well, he is sickly, and his theology is wrong.”
They were dismissing Paul because they believed he was weak, insignificant and misguided. Paul’s answer was ‘that the true power is from God’, but God still chooses to use jars of clay, and he uses us for a reason.
Paul writes, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; – persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
All of the sudden, those clay pots do not seem so fragile. In ancient times, sacred scrolls or valuable documents were rolled up and placed inside a jar of clay and then hidden ‘for safe keeping’. As you might recall, The Dead Sea Scrolls were kept in similar jars of clay.
Rev. A.T. Robertson wrote, “There have always been men in the world so clever that God could make no use of them. They could never do His work. They were so lost in admiration of their own.” And then he adds, “God’s work never depended on them and it doesn’t depend on them now.”
Instead, God uses the broken and the scarred, the ones pushed down but not willing to stay down. God uses the fighters and the fools. God uses the children and the sick. God sees value in all of them. They may be small vessels but they are adequate vessels for his purposes.
Like David standing up to Goliath, Esther standing up to the king, Elijah stood up to the priests of Baal, and Moses going up against the Pharaoh. They believed, what Philippians 4:13 said before it was written, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
Unfortunately, there were people who saw Jesus in person, but they missed who he really was. Isaiah 53:2-3 describes Jesus like this, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”
God’s glory was fully displayed in Jesus, but they were misguided by the packaging. Some Jews said in John 6:42, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose mother and father we know? How can he now say, I came down from heaven?”
This is a true story. On January 9th, 2007, Joshua Bell sold out Boston’s Symphony Hall. Seats were over $100 each. Joshua Bell plays a violin worth more than $3 million – and is considered one of the best musicians in the world.
Three days later he entered a metro-station in Washington, D.C. wearing casual clothing and a ball cap. He opened his case and played his violin for 45 minutes. Only six people stopped, twenty gave money (totaling $32), but no one recognized him. They thought he was just a bum playing for change.
Today, when it comes to the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ, ‘living in us’, many still miss it. They do not see his beauty and majesty, all they see is our rough packaging and they miss the message. They dismiss our worth.
As Christians, we want to do all we can to spread Christ’s glory in the world. In 2 Corinthians 4, the Apostle Paul addressed how difficult this can be. We may become discouraged and desire to quit, but we have good reasons to press on.
Paul understood what it meant to endure in all circumstances. Later, in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 he describes all his hardships. “As servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit – and in sincere love; in truthful speech and ‘in the power of God’; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand – and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, – yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; – beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
Nathan Hale was an American soldier and spy for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission in New York City but was captured by the British and executed. His last words before being hanged by the British ‘as a spy’, on September 22, 1776, were, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
I think Paul had a very similar attitude, his desire to advance the kingdom of God and shine God’s Glory, allowed him to withstand what many of us would never put up with. You see, God had chosen the right cracked pot.
Dr. Leon Wood taught ‘the book of Job’ at Grand Rapids Bible College. While this brilliant Old Testament scholar was ‘in his prime’ as an author and dean of a seminary, he contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease.
But as his body weakened, his faith and resolve strengthened. He continued to study, teach, and write. Some of his most significant books were written in the latter stages of his illness. The last seminary class he taught, met at his bedside. His spirit remained strong to the end. He was down but he was not destroyed.
Paul believed that God put his life-giving power in us, in these jars of clay because we were meant to be used, not admired. One pastor wrote, “The church was meant to be a working kitchen, where well-worn pots are filled again and again ‘to dispense their life-giving contents’ to a thirsty world.” I like that.
God created us well, but the fall started our slide down the hill toward death. Now we are clay pots that chip, crack and we are left with scars. But the Good news is, God still can use us – in whatever state we are in. We just can be filled with his light and used well.
Songwriter Leonard Cohen wrote about this in his song ‘Anthem’. The chorus goes,
“Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget ‘your perfect offering’,
There ‘is’ a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
When we started, I was telling you the story of Unbreakable, about Mr. Glass (whose body breaks easily) and David Dunn who did not. I even explained that some say, we are more like Mr. Glass than David Dunn.
In truth, we are somewhere in the middle. Yes, we can be fragile – but for the right cause, for Jesus Christ, we can be hard as nails. We were made to be ‘barriers of God’s light and grace’. (Matt. 5:14-16) And we were made well to carry out that task. Trust in God, for we can be ‘strong and courageous’. We were not called to give up but to carry on.
Your assignment is,…to get involved somewhere where you can shine the love of Christ on others. Do not give in or give up. Do not be satisfied with watching. Do not dismiss the power of God. Go and serve – and share your hope in Jesus Christ. Be barriers of light.