When I left school I went to study at college in Portsmouth. Portsmouth is a fine city (and for trivia fans the only UK city on an island) that prides itself on being the home of the Royal Navy (a title that Plymouth also claims). In those days, the flagship of the fleet was not a brand-new aircraft carrier but a 200-year-old man o’ war situated in a dry dock down at the naval dockyard: Nelson’s ship HMS Victory. Portsmouthians were so proud of this great historical connection that just about everything in Portsmouth was named after the Victory. The local radio station was Radio Victory; there’d be Victory Cabs and the Victory Tandoori. You name it and there was something named after the Victory.
Not many of us feel like we’ve experienced a victory. Some of us may have served in the armed forces but not many of us have experienced victory first-hand. We may have shared in the reflected glory of a sports team or been part of something that has performed well in some artistic endeavour. We may have won a contract or an argument, but few would count this a victory.
In Roman days victory had a special meaning. To a general who had led the forces to a great victory, a Triumph was awarded. The Triumph was a civil and religious celebration that involved a procession of the army, captives, captured loot and the triumphant general through the streets of Rome. The captives would be executed or enslaved and the general would acquire heroic status.
The reason I’m writing about this is because this month we celebrate victory and it is a victory in which we are involved. In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 Paul says:
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. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
We have been taken captive, but the victory is ours. We are like trophies in Jesus’ triumphal procession. We have become captives of Jesus but amazingly God does not wish to enslave us, he wishes to set us free – really free. Free to live life in all its fullness. Jesus’ victory on the cross has bought us, paid the debt that we owe for our sin and failure, and now, even more amazingly, he has adopted us as his children.
At the time of writing it’s not very easy to know what will happen in our nation over the coming weeks. It’s not very easy to predict what will happen in our lives over the coming weeks. We’d be forgiven for either being very afraid of what is to come, being very excited about what is to come, or living in a state of denial. The truth is that, whatever the future holds, we can have peace about it because we belong to Christ and we are kept by him for eternity. Through good and bad, he will lead us.
This is why we celebrate the cross. This is why we celebrate the resurrection. This is why Easter is the most important season of the year, because it is about life. Life that we have been given even though we don’t deserve it. Life that we have been given to experience God’s love and to channel it to others.
…God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.2 Corinthians 5:19
A very Happy Easter to you all.