READ : 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
. . . but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. (v. 1)
I find people who have had profound religious experiences impressive. When I first read that Thomas Aquinas, near the end of his life, had a religious experience so astonishing that he considered all he had written as so much straw, I was impressed. Again, when I learned that Johanna Veenstra, a longtime missionary to Nigeria, testified to those keeping watch around her deathbed, “He [Jesus] is altogether lovely; He is altogether lovely,” I was awed.
People who give such testimonies rally our own faith. Their words become an incentive to stay the course. Yet, here in this passage, when touching on his own religious experience, Paul is reluctant. He speaks about himself in the third person. He minimizes the experience by saying he doesn’t know whether he was in the body or out of the body.
Why this hesitancy? Paul sees a danger, namely, that we shift our attention away from Christ and on him. Testimonies have their place until they become more central than the one to whom they point. Paul, therefore, minimizes his experience to maximize the gospel. It’s not about me, he says; it’s Christ; it’s all about Christ. Paul wants all eyes on Jesus Christ, the gospel of God.
Let us always extol Christ!
O God, empower us to lift high the name of Jesus. Amen.