What is the treasure that Paul is speaking about? It is God’s life-giving light that comes into our lives through Jesus.
In words that draw on his earlier reference to Moses coming down the mountain from speaking with God with his face glowing with light, Paul writes in the previous verse that God, “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”. Because of Christ, we can know God and speak with him: our lives shine with God’s life-giving light.
What about the jars of clay? Well, that’s our failing human bodies. Paul is speaking about the physical toll of life in a broken world. As Christians, we face particular pressures on our lives from a world that is opposed to God. Our bodies, our lives, in this broken world are so fragile, and are easily shattered.
So Paul is drawing this contrast: we have this amazing life-giving light, ever increasing in power in our lives because of Jesus. But it’s contained in such fragile and fading vessels. Life and death experienced together. Paul reminds us that this mirrors Christ’s experience. Christ suffered and died, but then came resurrection.
Paul is reminding us of the hope that we have, and the fact that the life-giving light of God that is within us because of Christ will not fade, as our bodies do. Moreover, these fragile bodies of ours will experience and share in Christ’s resurrection. These jars of clay are temporary vessels, that will one day be renewed with eternal, resurrection power.
For now, we live with this contrast. But we do so with the hope of resurrection. Paul concludes by saying, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”.
If today we feel the weight of life and the frailty of our bodies, let us remember the life-giving light within us, a constant reminder that life and not death is ahead, a life that will include the renewal of our bodies.