Today’s Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:12-17
The verse which Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 most people today probably don’t. But the Christians of the 1st Century certainly did! You see, Paul was describing what was called a “Roman Triumph” – the glorious parade to honour a victorious general and his army upon their return to Rome.
Leading the parade, as a sign of welcome to the victorious army would be the senators and officials of Rome. Then came the trumpeters signalling the return of the army. Behind them were carried the precious treasures taken from the conquered lands. Those were followed by servants carrying pictures and models for all the people to see the enemy fortresses, cities and ships that had been captured or destroyed.
Next in line came a white bull to be sacrificed in thanksgiving to the gods. Behind the bull would come the captives, enemy princes, leaders and generals – all in chains – shortly to be thrown into prison.
Then came the lictors, the marshals of the parade, followed by the musicians. Behind them, came the pagan priests swinging their censers with sweet-smelling incense burning in them. And the fragrance of their incense permeated the air all around them, and especially perfuming the air around the commanding general who came immediately behind them.
He stood in a chariot drawn by 4 horses. He was dressed in a purple tunic embroidered in gold and over it wore a purple toga marked out with golden stars. In his hand, he held an ivory sceptre with a Roman eagle at the top.
Finally, there was the army itself, file after file of fighting men, wearing all their decorations and shouting cries of triumph to the accompaniment of the cheering crowds. It was a tremendous day – a day of glory for them all!
Now let’s go back to the words of Paul and to his mention of the sweet-smelling incense that filled the air in the Roman Triumph. What Paul is saying is that when we do it right – when we live out our Christianity the way we should – the fragrance of Christ begins to saturate us and we smell like Jesus. There is an aroma of Christ about us that others will notice even when we aren’t conscious of it.