But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. (verse 14)
This glorious verse is all the more powerful because it interrupts Paul’s narrative of some of his own personal angst in the midst of life and ministry. He had written a severe letter to the Corinthians (likely a letter, now lost, which he penned between 1 and 2 Corinthians). Although he wrote it out of love and concern for the Corinthians, he knew that by it he had caused them considerable pain. He had subsequently sent his co-worker Titus to visit them and was now anxiously awaiting his return, eager for a full report. Impatient, he travelled from Ephesus to Troas, hoping to intercept Titus on his return journey. Not finding him there, and still having no peace, he travelled on to Macedonia in hopes of making connection.
At this point in the story, as we, too, are on the edge of our seats, eager for Titus’ report, Paul drops the narrative, not resuming it until chapter 7. It is only then that he tells us Titus has arrived and all is well.
The effect, here in chapter 2, is that this gloriously triumphant verse breaks out in the midst of real life anxiety. How glad I am for that. The Apostle has moments of uncertainty and angst. So do I. Yet thanksgiving in Jesus can still flow.
This is so because the Father “always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ.” “Always” is an expansive word. All bases are covered. Regardless of my present circumstance or my level of anxiety or degree of un-peace, this word holds true. It’s got the backing of the Father. And there is the immersive reality of being “in Christ”, enveloped in his very life, embraced in his triumphant victory at the cross and tomb.
The triumphal procession itself is an image taken from Roman military life. A victorious general, returning from a campaign, would lead both soldiers and captives in a great parade amid shouts of acclamation from all assembled. We ourselves are part of that procession, caught up in the joy and exultation of our triumphant leader. The air is filled with the pungent fragrance of incense, burned in celebration, symbol of the knowledge of Christ which is spread abroad through our very lives, as we are “in Christ” himself.
Take note: it’s not our triumph, it’s his. We don’t have to mask our own unsettledness or angst – we simply stride forward, just as we are, step by step, in the parade of Jesus.
Paul was there, right in the midst of his own anxiety. We are there, too, independent of current life circumstances. If we are “in Christ”, we are led in triumph.
Praise his name.
Dear Jesus, Victorious Lord, lead on. I choose to follow in your procession, joyfully giving thanks for your triumph, joining you in celebration, indeed victory. Even amid this present moment, whatever stress and turmoil presents itself today, I stride forward, in you.
Pray: Commit the day ahead into Jesus’ hands. Focus on the victory of his cross, the power of his resurrection and the triumph of his soon coming. Remind yourself all day of the reality of this joyful procession.