First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, April 16, 2023)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Christ’s Triumphal Procession!”
Psalm 118:15-17; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17
As you may already know, today is the Second Sunday of Easter which means we are still in the Easter season; that is a 7-week season that begins with Resurrection Sunday and goes all the way to Pentecost. To emphasize how foundational resurrection is, from the beginning, the Church of Jesus has chosen from day one to gather on Sundays; not only that, but the Church also dedicates 7 Sundays following Easter to highlight the importance of Christ’s resurrection.
If Christ’s resurrection from the dead has been so important to the early Church, it should be important to us. Resurrection is never meant to be celebrated one single Sunday a year, rather, it should be a source of reflection and rejoicing. So to emphasize the magnitude of that event, I will be delivering a 4-week sermon series on the Church’s response to what God has done in Christ.
I would like to kick off this series by looking at one of the key Scriptures that gives us a glimpse of how the early Church understood the Resurrection of our Lord. This morning we will be reflecting on 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession.” Looking at the profound impact of Christ’s resurrection and His fulfilled mission, Paul likens Jesus to a conquering Roman Emperor who triumphantly enters Rome. “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession,” says Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14.
Let me briefly say what Paul means by “Christ’s triumphal procession”, then draw a single application from our passage this morning:
The Triumphal Procession
We live in a different world. In 2023, we don’t live in a world where there are many triumphal processions. Yet, even in small communities we are familiar with celebrations for winning 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.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14, Paul speaks about something similar to that; 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 will never forgot. No one would have been able to say, “Oh; a Triumph happened the other day? I guess I missed it.” It was as 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, that General was honored with the highest honor the Roman empire could bestow. He was honored with the Triumph; and it was like the Superbowl, Oscar Night, and the Fourth of July all rolled up into one, 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 high 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. In the light of this awesome reality, what would be our response:
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. Our proper response for Christ’s victory is thanksgiving. Paul gives thanks to God for the fact that God leads us in triumph in Christ. Often times, when we get overwhelmed by the happenings of our lives, we find it hard to give thanks to God.
Paul tells us today if you find yourself defeated and if you find it hard to give thanks to God because of your circumstances, give thanks to God because you follow the triumphant one. 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. As we reflect on this great reality, we can think of nothing but giving 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. 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. He was able to say – at the end of his life, as he sat in prison awaiting execution – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 1 Timothy 4:7.
You and I may not feel very victorious at times. You may even feel worn out and defeated and ready to quit. You may feel deeply overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and weakness. But here’s the fact: even then – even then, and always – you are being led by God in Christ’s triumphal procession! You are on the side of victory! You belong to the Winner! The triumphal parade may not have appeared on this earth yet, but you are already in it.
Friends, today’s message is very assuring! We belong to a victorious King. We follow a Risen Lord. 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. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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