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Thankful for the Uncancelled Parade

As Steve Martin would say, “2020 has been a wild and crazy year!”

We have had to deal with one changed or cancelled thing after another since March!

In March pro sports were postponed, and spring sports were cancelled.

The country locked down for what looked like 2 weeks, with some places still not re-opened yet. Nursing home visitation is still cancelled.

In April Easter at the Tabernacle was cancelled, and we had drive in church.

In May Mother’s Day was overshadowed with not wanting to give momma Covid, and the Memorial Day parade was cancelled. Graduations were postponed and adjusted, but not what we’d hoped they would be.

In June Vacation Bible School was cancelled, and family vacations had to be taken at our own risk – with some coming back with the Covid.

In July we went to youth camp, but it ended early due to Covid. Most of the Fireworks we saw were on TV, but watching with a crowd was still cancelled.

In August people still couldn’t gather to watch concerts or sports, but there were big protests in some cities. As for school, it was on some days, cancelled the next.    

In September fall sports were postponed, and Labor day events were cancelled.

In October Trick or Treating was cancelled or adjusted and we had a trunk or treat rather than our Fall Festival.

Now we are in November, and the election has happened but is not yet resolved, Covid numbers are going up, and many people have cancelled Thanksgiving plans.

As a sign of the times, I saw that this Thursday Macy is getting out the floats and will still have stars entertain, but will not have a parade.

Usually the parade has 8,000 volunteers doing things before 3.5 million people on the parade route through New York City, with 50 million watching on TV.

But this year, it’s cancelled!

Today we are going to look at a time the apostle Paul was in a season of frustration and uncertainty, but encouraged himself by thinking about an uncancelled parade that all Christians are already participating in!

Many people aren’t really ready for Thanksgiving this year, and some people want to skip over Thanksgiving and go right to Christmas.

But I believe that we need Thanksgiving in years of adversity as much or even more than we do in times of prosperity, so I am preaching two Thanksgiving messages this year, one the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and one afterward.

Read 2 Cor. 2:12-16           Thankful for the Uncancelled Parade               Let’s Pray!

Paul admits being distracted during recent ministry                                 V. 12-13

Look at verse 12

Paul had gone to Troas and God opened a door for him to share the gospel there.

People wanted Paul to tell them about Jesus and what being a disciple meant.

But Paul admits that as he was trying to do what God wanted Him to do, he had no rest in his spirit.

Does that describe you this year?

You want to serve Jesus in 2020, but you have no rest in your spirit.

You are distracted with concerns about you or your family’s health.

Or schooling. Or work. Or church.

Or not being able to visit at the hospital or nursing home.

Or the election.

The plans you had for this year have been blown to pieces, and you want to serve Jesus, but you just stay frustrated these days.

That’s what was happening to Paul.

Paul had a great plan that had been blown up by circumstances beyond his control, and he was distracted.

Before going to Troas, Paul had sent Titus to check on the welfare of the Corinthian church, a church Paul had sternly called to repentance when he last saw them.

Titus was supposed to re-join Paul in Troas and give him the update from Corinth.

But Titus wasn’t there when Paul got there.

And even though the people of Troas were ready for ministry right then and there, the door was open, Paul was too distracted to make the most of it.

We read here that in verse 13 that Paul actually put on hold the ministry in Troas to go to Macedonia and meet Titus there so he could get the word he needed even sooner.

Let’s see what Paul speak about that reunion with Titus in 2 Corinthians 7:2-7.

Turn there.

Now turn back to 2 Corinthians 2:14.

Paul gave thanks that Christians are in Christ’s Triumph parade          V. 14-16

I love the words, “Thanks be to God!”

I hope you take the time at Thanksgiving this year to speak out loud all that you are thankful for.

After saying that circumstances had knocked him off his game some, Paul says thanks be to God!

And then he says specifically that he is thanking God that Christ God always leads him in triumph in Christ!

Now stick with me on this and you will get a blessing!

The words “leads us in triumph” there is just one word in the Greek, thriambeuo (G 2358). It is a present active participle meaning “to lead in a triumph.” The picture is the triumphal entry of a military hero into the city of Rome. 

The Romans simply called the parade honoring a military hero a “Triumph.”

Paul would have been very familiar with the Roman Triumph parade.

We just saw a clip of one in Ben Hur, but let me tell you more.

To get a triumph parade, a victorious Roman general had to meet certain criteria:

Conquered new territory for Rome on foreign soil

At least 5,000 enemy soldiers had been killed

The victory was so decisive that the troops could come home

The 5th century historian Orosius said there were 320 Triumphs up to the first century AD.

Paul wrote 2 Corinthians around AD 55/56 from Macedonia (Philippi).

Paul would have been very familiar with a Triumph for Claudius in the Mid 40’s.

Claudius had successfully invaded Britain in AD 43. Commemorative coins were minted in AD 46-47. An Arch was dedicated in Rome in AD 51.

Paul probably did business with some of those coins. Here’s what the coins looked like:

Now listen to this.

The parade would happen in 3 stages:

Stage 1

Roman Senators in the front

Then Trumpeters

Then Floats depicting land conquered and key parts of the battle

Then Spoils of war: Exotic animals, gold and treasure

Then prisoners of war, including defeated kings (many of whom would be executed that day, and others who would be set free)

Stage 2

The Victorious General riding a chariot pulled by 4 white horses!

He was dressed as if he was Jupiter, the best of gods

White bulls and oxen that would later be sacrificed and made into a BBQ dinner

His extended family with him, (Here I am, with my sons and daughters)…

Stage 3

Some say that the prisoners who were going to be set free were here.

The victorious soldiers in His army, singing loud! 

The Triumph would start outside the city, go through the Triumphal gate and cross the Tiber river.

All along the road would be cheering crowds shouting and burning incense that filled the air with a pungent aroma!

They would go into the Circus Maximus racetrack (which held 150,000 people) and would take a couple of laps to the roar of the common folk of the city.

They would then go around the Palatine Hill and on to the Via Sacra, the sacred road, lined with its temples to Roman gods (the big wigs would watch from there).

The procession would stop at the Temple of Jupiter, the best and greatest god; There the white bulls would be sacrificed; And then many of the prisoners would be separated out and killed.

And then there would be a big feast for the Triumphal general and his troops; For those on the same side of the Kingdom, the smells were the smell of victory; For those who were enemies, the smells were the smell of impending judgment.

Do you understand what Paul is saying?

It’s unfortunate here that the King James reads “Causes us to triumph,” because that’s not how the Greek reads.

Romans 2:14 says that God is presently leading us in Christ’s Triumph    celebration He earned by defeating Satan. Even amidst the temporary setbacks we experience in this life, we can be confident that we are marching to Zion.

Maybe you are thinking of Ephesians 4:8, which says that when Christ “Ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”

Maybe you are thinking of Hebrews 2:13, where Christ says to the Father, “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”

In the Roman Triumph there were slaves, there were sons, and there were soldiers.

At different times in the New Testament we are called all of those things – slaves of God bought at a price, sons and daughters adopted into His family, and soldiers advancing Christ’s kingdom!

I love that Paul thought of this while he was in cities that were filled with lost people all around him.

He was able to see his steps as purposefully moving toward the marriage supper of the Lamb, toward the second coming of Jesus Christ, toward the Final Judgment of those who hated God.

In the midst of his frustrating circumstances Paul saw that Christ’s victory on the Cross was leading all Christians in a Triumph, and it gave him a thankful heart!

It should give us a thankful heart as well!

I love how Paul reflects on the smell that the incense burned by the victors gave off.

For those who love Jesus, our lives are a sweet aroma.

That’s what I thought of when I heard Matt’s testimony!

But for those who do not love Jesus, they hate our smell – it’s the aroma of the judgment that awaits when the parade stops.

Paul reflects on the responsibility of trying to convince a lost world to turn to Jesus and says, “Who is sufficient for these things?”

None of us! Christ alone is the Victor!

But what we can’t do in our own strength, God can do through us!

In 2 Corinthians 3:5 Paul answers his own question and says, “Our sufficiency is from God!”

This Thanksgiving, give thanks to God regardless of your circumstances.

And from now on, give thanks for the uncancelled parade! 

Let’s Pray!