In the ancient world when an army won a victory, their leader led the soldiers and their spoils of war in a procession, usually into their home city and with all captured prisoners in the parade. Those who stood in the sidelines watching this spectacle were either absolutely delighted with the sights and smells of this display OR they were like those whose favorite sports team has been skunked — they turned up their noses in disgust.
For Christians, the victory over sin and death has been won. We don’t need to talk about “getting the victory” because it is ours already. We only need to hold our heads high and proceed — and as we do, He spreads abroad the perfume of Christ, showing the onlookers that we know Him . . .
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14–16)
This is delightful imagery. I watched most of a special outdoor hockey game yesterday on television. The players came on the ice in single file, ready to do their best for the large crowd who came to see their team. They were hopeful and excited.
The same players later left the ice. One team scored three goals; the other none. Their exit from the ice was not the same as when they arrived. The winners were far more exuberant than when they started, and the losers were dejected. The perfume was sweat but the aroma was different for those who win.
The point of these verses is that I am victorious in Christ Jesus. No matter what my game looks like, He has secured it for me. When I march with Him, I carry with me the sweet smell of one who knows Jesus. I can hold my head high in the excitement of an eternal winner.
As for those who watch, their responses will depend on who they are cheering for. Those who love God and hate sin will see the Grand Leader of the parade and be excited. They may not know what draws them to this joy, but eventually they too will be in the throng that marches with Jesus.
However, some will love sin and hate God. For them, the aroma of this passing parade will be a stench, not because it is foul but because that will be how they perceive it. The victory parade is to them a proclamation of loss and death, their loss and death. They will not perceive it as it is because sin blinds our eyes to spiritual realities.
“Who is sufficient for these things?” I cannot make my life smell good to those who are drawn to my Leader and Lord. I cannot even know who they are. This is the same for those who hate God. While their decision and attitude might be more visible to me, how they see me and how they respond to the life of Christ in me and the victory parade He leads is not my doing. I am not sufficient or adequate for any of that. All I can do is walk behind Jesus, confident that He has made me victorious in Him, and joyful that I am in this celebration!