2 Corinthians 2:12-17
A Triumphal Procession and the Aroma of Christ
In ancient Rome, when a general was victorious in battle, winning a war for the Republic and later Empire, he was accorded the greatest award that Rome could give: a Triumphal Procession. In such a procession, the general would lead his army through the streets of Rome along with captives and spoils. The captives might have to walk “under the yoke,” a symbol of humiliation and submission. It would be celebrated by the whole city and crowned with the usual pagan debauchery.
Well, here Paul speaks of a triumphal procession, but of a different kind. After his painful visit to Corinth, he had sent a heartfelt and anguished letter to the church by the hand of Titus. He expected to meet Titus in Troas (in northwest “Asia Minor”) and discover how his letter was received, but Titus didn’t show. So burdened was Paul for the Corinthians that, although “a door was opened” for him to preach the gospel in Troas, he was compelled to leave that city and travel to Macedonia in search of Titus. Such was the pastoral heart of Paul that he would leave off preaching the gospel, where it was being received, to care for this struggling (and ungrateful) church which he obviously loved so dearly. Having found Titus, he discovered that matters had improved and then speaks of a triumphal entry—where Christ is the general leading the procession and he and is coworkers following as his adoring and loyal army.
Paul then uses another metaphor of the followers in this grand procession as the “aroma of Christ” spreading “the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” The fragrance may be considered the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the essence of the aroma that he shares with us. But the fragrance smells differently to different people. To those who are perishing, it is the fragrance of death. The gospel stinks to these, their hardened and impenitent hearts having corrupted their olfactory organ. But to those who are being saved, there is nothing that smells better than the life-changing gospel. And who is sufficient for this? Who brings this to pass? Who makes us to reek of the gospel? Not us! It is his work in us, the presence of the Holy Spirit sanctifying our lives.
The Triumphal Procession marches on, our Lord in the lead. I, for one, am glad to pass under his yoke, for his yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:30). May we share his aroma and spread his fragrance. To do so, we must draw ever closer to him.