First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, April 24, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Christ’s Triumphal Procession!”
Psalm 118:15-17; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter which means we are still in the Easter Season. Resurrection is never meant to be celebrated just a single Sunday a year, rather, every Sunday when we get together for worship, we are to remember Christ’s resurrection. So today, and the next couple Sundays, we will be examining 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, a great Scripture passage that gives us a glimpse of how the early Church understood the Resurrection of our Lord.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14, the apostle Paul says, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession.” Looking at the enormous impact of Christ’s resurrection and His fulfilled mission, Paul likens Jesus to a conquering Roman Emperor who triumphantly enters Rome after a great victory. Let’s unpack this Scripture passage and see what God might have for us today. Let me start with a “Roman Triumphal Procession.”
The Triumphal Procession
It might be hard for us today to imagine what a Roman triumphal procession might look like. We don’t live in a world where there are many triumphal processions. Yet, even in small communities in the 21st century, we are familiar with celebrations for victorious teams. We honor those who return with state trophies and professional championships. These always involve team members parading in front of people who cheer for them.
The picture Paul gives us in 2 Corinthians 2:14 is similar to that. Paul was speaking of something that every Roman citizen of his day would have been very familiar with – and that is, the Roman Triumph. The Roman Triumph was a remarkable thing. It was something that people might have only seen once or twice in a lifetime – but it was something that they never forgot. No one would have been able to say, “Oh; a Triumph happened the other day? I guess I missed it.” It was a public event as a public event could possibly be; and everyone in the vicinity would know about it when it happened.
Whenever a conquering Roman General returned to Rome from a campaign, and in honor of the campaign successfully completed, the victory gained, and the efforts resulted in the peace of Rome being established in that conquered region, that General was honored with the highest honor the Roman empire could bestow. He was honored with the “Triumph;” and it was a huge celebration.
A great procession would march throughout the streets of Rome on the way to the Roman capital. In the midst of the precession stands the General, on a chariot, dressed in purple, holding in his hand an ivory scepter that bore the figure of the Roman eagle at its top. Behind him came all of his victorious troops in full decoration – all shouting, “Io triumphe! Io triumphe!” “We won. We won!” That’s how Paul describes Christ after His resurrection. He is a conquering King. He had conquered death and brough life eternal. In the light of this awesome reality, what would be our response as believers today? Two ways to respond to this awesome reality:
First: Let’s Give Thanks to God
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession,” says the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14. Paul gives thanks to God for the fact that God leads us in Christ’s triumphal procession. Often times, when we get overwhelmed by the happenings of our lives, we find it hard to give thanks to God. In Christ, God made us triumphant.
Christ is the Triumphant One – and we are led by God in triumph in Christ because we are united to Him! A Roman citizen may have never been to a battlefield, but they still can shout in the procession, “We won!” As Roman citizens and part of the empire, they applied what their army had done on their behalf. It’s the same way for us as Christians today. We apply what Christ has done at Golgotha for us today. The more we understand this great reality, the more we give thanks to God.
Second: Remember, You’re Always Triumphant
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ ALWAYS leads us in triumphal procession,” says the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14. Always is a key word here. You and I may not feel very triumphant at times. Paul certainly didn’t. He felt very weak and frustrated at times. But the fact is that, even then, He was being led in Christ’s triumphant procession. At the end of his life, as he sat in prison awaiting execution, he was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 1 Timothy 4:7.
It's true that you and I may not feel very victorious at times. We may even feel worn out and defeated and ready to quit. We may feel deeply overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and weakness. But here’s the fact: even then – even then, and always – we are being led by God in Christ’s triumphal procession! We are on the side of victory! We belong to the Winner! The final triumphal parade may not have appeared on this earth yet, but we are already in it.
Friends, the words that the Lord is speaking to us today are very assuring. Today we are assured that even at those times when we sincerely seek to follow and serve Christ and yet feel so horribly frustrated in our efforts – even at those times when we feel weak and inadequate and far too incapable of doing any good to God’s Kingdom – even at those times when we feel like we’ve blown it, or even when we have stumbled and sin and failed Him; God still assures us that we are being led in Christ’s triumphal procession, and for this we are thankful. “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!” says Psalm 118:15. Keep those shouts of joy and victory resounding in your tent because Christ is alive. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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