“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:9
One of the themes in 2 Corinthians in particular is God’s glory / power being manifest in weakness and suffering. Christ is, of course, the model for this pattern (“He was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God…” 2 Cor.13:4, or again, “Christ crucified [is a] stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called…[it is] Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor.1:23-24), but Paul understands himself to be following in those same footsteps (2 Cor.4:7-12, 13:4). Just as Christ’s “weakness” on the cross led to the manifestation of God’s power in the overcoming of death at the resurrection, so too the sufferings of Christ’s disciples (imaging His death) will be the context for and the seed of the display of His glory and power in their lives (imaging His resurrection)….
This is why, I believe, Jesus does not take away Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” but rather sustains him by grace in the midst of his suffering. God the Son’s goal (and Paul’s desire) is that the God would be magnified in all things….and since the power of God is made clear in weakness, Jesus will SUSTAIN Paul in suffering rather than REMOVE him from suffering, SO THAT His glory / power might be made known through him – and this is Paul’s joy! He is counted worthy to walk in the cruciform path of his savior and to be sustained by the intimate grace of Christ in order that the power of the resurrected Lord might rest on and be displayed in Him….this is what he lives for and what he counts as most precious (Phil.3:10-11).
So, in this picture the thorns represent Paul’s suffering, as does the shattering of Paul’s body (which is also a reference to Paul saying that he is a “jar of clay” in which the glory of God in Christ is displayed, 2 Cor.4:7)….while the light within represents the power of the resurrected Christ that is made known to the world as Christians are sustained even in the midst of their weakness. The wounds of Christ are visible because they are an eternal reminder both of His own descent into deepest suffering and – through this descent – of His victory over all suffering for the sake of those who trust in Him.
May this picture be a reminder to those who trust in Christ that, though we may carry the death of Jesus in our suffering bodies, by His grace, this will be the very context in which the overcoming life of Jesus will be manifest in and through us (2 Cor.4:10-11).