Ezekiel was called as a prophet by his exilic visions in Babylon. He went there in 597 BC with King Jehoiachin, who had surrendered when King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem (1.1-3; 2 Kings 24.8-17). Ezekiel prophesied from 593 to 571, spanning 587 when the Temple he had served as a priest was destroyed. In this deadly maelstrom, Ezekiel recognises that he is a mere mortal, falling on his face in response to ‘the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God’ (1.28). He stands only by the divine power of the word he must speak to ‘a rebellious house’.
2 Corinthians 12.2-10
Paul is struggling to establish his credentials with critics in the Corinthian Church, who boast of their spiritual experiences. Paul refers to the ecstatic visions that he received at his conversion, but modestly couches them as if to a third person. To underline this humility and to make this point to the Corinthians that he is a servant of Christ, and not elevating himself, he emphasises his weakness (v.5). He describes how a thorn in the flesh, which is not specified – it may be a physical ailment, or other handicap – continually reminds him of his utter dependence on God; and prevents him becoming conceited. He has prayed three times for this to be removed, but through prayer has come to accept God’s word to him: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’ (v.9).
For the early Christians, the story of the offence Jesus caused his own family (3.21,31-35) and others of his home town, foreshadowed his rejection by most of his own people (15.6-15) and the mission to the Gentiles. The latter is perhaps anticipated here by Mark and Luke (9.1-6), who do not include the injunction in Matthew 10.5-15 to ‘go nowhere among the Gentiles’. The objection to Jesus seems to be to his ordinariness. And, although it was more usual to refer to a Jewish man as son of his father, it is not clear that any extraordinary significance attaches to ‘son of Mary’. Prejudgement prevents a response of faith without which, Mark is not afraid to say, ‘he could do no deed of power’. But the mission of the obedient twelve is an extension of his ministry, as they too meet both rejection and repentance.