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The Triumph of Christ

The Triumph of Christ

My wife, Nancy, and I worked our way down the narrow, noisy, twisting, congested street in Jerusalem known as the Via Dolorosa, or “The Way of Sorrows.” This is the route that tradition says Jesus followed, carrying His cross through the streets of Jerusalem and eventually winding up at the “place of the skull”—Golgotha.

Looking at it today, however, the route looks more like the Way of the Moneychangers. Instead of the jeering and weeping crowds that Jesus would’ve seen on either side of the Way, we saw lots and lots of vendors hawking their wares—everything from Chicago Cubs T-shirts to all kinds of artwork, including the sketch of four rabbi’s crossing a street like the Beatles on Abbey Road. It’s as if all of the moneychangers that Jesus drove out the Temple decided to set up shop on the Via Dolorosa.

Tucked away amidst the shopkeeper frenzy are the fourteen Stations of the Cross, commemorating the different stages that Jesus went through on His way to the cross. As I tried to block out the incessant calls to make a deal for this and that, the route that Jesus took reminded me, strangely, of another type of parade that occurred in another major city during the time of Jesus—Rome.

These parades were called “Triumphs,” and they celebrated the victory of Roman generals over their enemies. The closest thing we have to Triumphs today would be the victory parades that sports teams hold in their cities after winning a world championship.

Julius Caesar, the most famous of Roman generals, had four Triumphs—more than any other in history. To earn a Triumph, a general’s victory had to meet certain requirements. For instance, the military victory being celebrated had to be a major battle, and there had to be at least 5,000 enemy casualties, according to National Geographic History magazine.

A Triumph would begin at the city gate of Rome, Porta Triumphalis, and it led to the Field of Mars, then passed along Via Sacra, or the Sacred Way. The parade featured politicians, musicians, and even exotic animals, such as elephants and giraffes. When Julius Caesar was honored with a Triumph in 46 B.C., the people of Rome had never seen giraffes before, so you can imagine their astonishment at these long-necked wonders.

Finally, but most importantly, the general would appear in the parade along with his soldiers. The general would ride on a chariot pulled by four horses—the quadriga. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar’s chariot broke down, but he continued on, striding between two lines of elephants—40 of the huge animals in all. The procession ended at the temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill.

In almost all respects, the Triumph of Roman generals seems the complete opposite of Jesus’s path through Jerusalem. The general wore a crown made of soft, green laurel leaves, while Jesus wore a crown made of hard, biting thorns. The general was cheered by throngs of citizens, while people along the Way of Sorrows either mocked Jesus or wept at his suffering. The general rode in a grand chariot, while Jesus had to trudge with the beam of a cross cutting into his back. The general was accompanied by his army, while many of Jesus’s followers fled and deserted Him on that day.

In 2 Corinthians 2:14, Paul makes specific mention of Triumphs when he writes: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

Roman generals displayed their captives in these triumphal parades, and in most cases the prisoners would wind up being executed. But Paul says WE are the captives in Christ’s triumphal procession. That’s because we, like the Roman captives, must die to be raised again with Christ. We must die to our desires; we must give up our cravings for money or power or fame as we go with Christ to the cross. We too must trudge down the Via Dolorosa, where our sins are nailed to the cross with Christ. However, in contrast to the prisoners in a Roman Triumph, the captives in Christ’s Triumph are freed. Dying to our sins brings release and freedom.

Paul goes on to say in 2 Corinthians: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.”

In a Roman Triumph, people displayed exotic flowers in addition to the exotic animals—flowers with a pleasing aroma. But Paul says that in the Triumph of Jesus, WE who follow Jesus are those flowers. WE are the pleasing aroma of new life.

If we go with Christ down the Way of Sorrow, if we die with Him on Golgotha, we share in His new life. We share in His resurrection. “We face death all day long,” Romans 8:36 says. But one verse later, it adds, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Yes, we are more than conquerors—and that’s why we can celebrate our Triumph in Christ.

Julius Caesar, eat your heart out.

History by the Slice Family Activity

Google “Via Dolorosa” and check out images of The Way of Sorrows. Then read 2 Corinthians 2: 14-17 and discuss these questions:

  1. What is the Via Dolorosa and where is it?

 

  1. What are the 14 Stations of the Cross? (You may need to Google this.)

 

  1. Why does the Book of Romans call us “captives in Christ’s triumphal procession”?

 

  1. How can we “spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere”?

 

  1. What is a Roman Triumph, and how is it different from Jesus’s Way of Sorrows?

 

  1. In what ways is Jesus’s Triumph greater than Caesar’s Triumph? How was Jesus triumphant?

 

  1. Romans 8:36 says, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” How are we more than conquerors?

By: Doug Peterson has written 42 books for VeggieTales and is the author of four historical novels: The Disappearing Man, The Puzzle People, The Vanishing Woman, and The Lincoln League. His latest are six books in The Legends of Lightfall series. Learn more about Doug at www.bydougpeterson.com

Join us at www.just18summers.com for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

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