Jesus the Victor

Mark 4: 11   He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables.”

 Christian life is a triumphant life

Colossians 2:13 - 23
 13  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
14   having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
15   And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.      
16   Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
17   These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
18   Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.
19   They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
20   Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:
21   “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
22   These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.
23   Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (NIV)
Paul’s Letter to Colossians
The epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Philemon and Colossians were written in (or around) A.D. 62

Place: While a prisoner at Rome.

Colossae or Colosse, was an ancient city of Phrygia
It was situated about 12 miles South East of Laodicea, and near the great road from Ephesus to the Euphrates.

In antiquity, Phrygia (Turkish: Frigya) was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now Turkey
Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor, Asian Turkey, Anatolian peninsula, or Anatolian plateau, denotes the westernmost protrusion of Asia, which makes up the majority of the Republic of Turkey.

Purpose of the epistle

To guard true Gospel against certain errors that prevailed in the church.

The church at Colosse was one of a circle or group of churches, lying near each other, in Asia Minor
That group of churches embraced those at Ephesus, Laodicea, Thyatira, and, in general, those addressed in the Apocalypse as "the seven churches of Asia."
It is probable that the same general views of philosophy, and the same errors, prevailed throughout the entire region where they were situated.

The design of the epistle is:

1.      To warn them of the danger of the Jewish zealots, who pressed the necessity of observing the ceremonial law.
In that vicinity there appear to have been numerous disciples of John the Baptist, retaining many Jewish prejudices and prepossessions, who would be tenacious of the observances of the Mosaic law.
It was primarily to guard the church against the errors to which it was exposed from the prevalence of false philosophy, and from the influence of false teachers in religion;

2.      And to fortify them against the mixture of the Gentile philosophy with their Christian principles.

To assert the superior claims of Christianity over all philosophy, and its independence of the peculiar rites and customs of the Jewish religion.

 Superior Claims of Christianity over All Philosophy

Colossians 2 : 13 - 15
 13  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
14   having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
15   And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The apostle here represents the privileges we Christians have above the Jews and gentile practitioners, which are very great.

Verse 13

1.    Christ's death is our life:

A state of sin is a state of spiritual death. Those who are in sin are dead in sin.
As the death of the body consists in its separation from the soul, so the death of the soul consists in its separation from God and the divine favour.
As a man who is dead is unable to help himself by any power of his own, so an habitual sinner is morally impotent.
Though he has a natural power, or the power of a reasonable creature, he has not a spiritual power, till he has the divine life or a renewed nature.

Christ's death was the death of our sins
Christ's resurrection is the quickening of our souls.

II. Through him we have the remission of sin:

Having forgiven you all trespasses.
This is our quickening.
The pardon of the crime is the life of the criminal
As Jesus died for our sins, so He rose again for our justification:

Romans 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (NIV)

Now through Christ we, who were dead in sins, are quickened
Effectual provision is made for taking away the guilt of sin, and breaking the power and dominion of it.

III. Whatever was in force against us is taken out of the way.

He has obtained for us a legal discharge from the hand-writing of ordinances, which was against us
He vacated and disannulled the judgment which was against us.

When he was nailed to the cross, the curse was as it were nailed to the cross.
And our indwelling corruption is crucified with Christ, and by virtue of his cross.

The ceremonial law was the hand-writing of ordinances
The ceremonial institutions or the law of commandments contained in ordinances
It was a yoke to the Jews and a partition-wall to the Gentiles.

The Lord Jesus took it out of the way, nailed it to his cross
Disannulled the obligation of it
That all might see and be satisfied that it was no more binding.

The expressions are in allusion to the ancient methods of cancelling a bond, either by crossing the writing or striking it through with a nail.

He has obtained a glorious victory for us over the powers of darkness

Colossians 2 : 15  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

He led captivity captive.

The devil and all the powers of hell were conquered and disarmed by the dying Redeemer.
The expressions are lofty and magnificent: let us turn aside and see this great sight.
The Redeemer conquered by dying.
See his crown of thorns turned into a crown of laurels.

He spoiled them
Broke the devil's power
Conquered and disabled him
Made a show of them openly - exposed them to public shame, and made a show of them to angels and men.

There is an allusion to the custom of a general's triumph, who returned victorious.

vir triumphalis

vir triumphalis - "man of triumph", later known as a triumphator

The Roman triumph (triumphus)

The origins and development of this honour were obscure
Roman historians placed the first triumph in the mythical past.

The Roman triumph (triumphus) was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome
It was held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievement of an army commander who had won great military successes, or originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war.
In Republican Rome, truly exceptional military achievement merited the highest possible honours.
It connected the vir triumphalis ("man of triumph", later known as a triumphator) to Rome's mythical and semi-mythical past.
In effect, the general was close to being "king for a day", and possibly close to divinity.

In Republican tradition, only the Senate could grant a triumph.

Short Description

On the day of his triumph, the general wore a crown of laurel
He was dressed in the all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga picta ("painted" toga), regalia (ceremonial dress) that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly.
He rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in unarmed procession with his army, captives and the spoils of his war.
At Jupiter's temple on the Capitoline Hill he offered sacrifice and the tokens of his victory to the god.
Thereafter he had the right to be described as vir triumphalis ("man of triumph", later known as triumphator) for the rest of his life.
After death, he was represented at his own funeral, and those of his later descendants, by a hired actor who wore his mask (imago) and toga picta.


The honour was granted to a general after
Any decisive battle had been won, or
A province subdued by a series of successful operations (a foreign war)

The Imperator forwarded to the senate a laurel - wreathed despatch containing an account of his exploit.
If the intelligence proved satisfactory the senate decreed a public thanksgiving. [Supplicatio]

After the war was concluded the general with his army repaired to Rome, or ordered his army to meet him there on a given day, but did not enter the city.
A meeting of the senate was held without the walls, usually in the temple of Bellona that he might have an opportunity of urging his pretensions in person
His claims were then scrutinized and discussed with the most jealous care.

The following rules and restrictions were for the most part rigidly enforced, although the senate assumed the discretionary power of relaxing them in special cases.

1.      That no one could be permitted to triumph unless he had held the office of dictator, of consul, or of praetor.

2.      That the magistrate should have been actually in office both when the victory was gained and when the triumph was to be celebrated.

3.      That the war should have been prosecuted or the battle fought under the auspices and in the province and with the troops of the general seeking the triumph.

4.      That at least 5000 of the enemy should have been slain in a single battle
The advantage should have been positive
It should not be merely a compensation for some previous disaster
The loss on the part of the Romans should have been small compared with that of their adversaries.

5.      That the war should have been a legitimate contest against public foes, and not a civil contest.

6.      That the dominion of the state should have been extended and not merely something previously lost regained.

7.      That war should have been brought to a conclusion
The province reduced to a state of peace
The army being withdrawn, the presence of the victorious soldiers being considered indispensable in a triumph.

The procession (pompa) mustered in the open space of the Campus Martius (Field of Mars) probably well before first light.
From there, all unforeseen delays and accidents aside, it would have managed a slow walking pace at best, punctuated by various planned stops en route to its final destination, the Capitoline temple
It was a distance of just under 4 km.
Triumphal processions were notoriously long and slow
The longest triumphal procession could last for two or three days, and possibly more, and some may have been of greater length than the route itself.

The triumphator wore the regalia (ceremonious dress) traditionally associated both with the ancient Roman monarchy and with the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus:

1.      the purple and gold "toga picta"
2.      laurel crown
3.      red boots
4.      the red-painted face of Rome's supreme deity.

He was drawn in procession through the city, in a four-horse chariot, under the gaze of his peers and an applauding crowd, to the temple of Capitoline Jupiter.
His sumptuous triumphal chariot was bedecked with charms against the possible envy (invidia) and malice of onlookers.
A companion or public slave would, holding a crown, from time to time, remind him of his own mortality (a memento mori), whispering in his ear “you are not a God”.

Some ancient and modern sources suggest a fairly standard processional order.

1.      The captive leaders
2.      Allies and soldiers – and sometimes their families – usually walking in chains; some were destined for execution or further display.
3.      Their captured weapons, armour, gold, silver, statuary, and curious or exotic treasures were carted behind them, along with paintings, tableaux and models depicting significant places and episodes of the war.
4.      All on foot, came Rome's senators and magistrates, followed by the general's lictors (member of an ancient Roman class of magisterial attendants) in their red war-robes, their fasces wreathed in laurel.
5.      Then the general in his four-horse chariot.
A companion, or a public slave, might share the chariot with him; or in some cases, his youngest children.
6.      His officers and elder sons rode on horseback nearby.
7.      His unarmed soldiers followed, in togas and laurel crowns, chanting "io triumphe!" and singing ribald songs at their general's expense.
8.      All this, to the accompaniment of music, clouds of incense and the strewing of flowers.
9.      Once at the Capitoline temple, he sacrificed two white oxen to Jupiter and laid tokens of his victory at his feet, dedicating his victory to the Roman Senate, people and gods.

In most triumphs, the general funded a post-procession banquet from his share of the loot.

In Republican tradition, a general was expected to wear his triumphal regalia only for the day of his Triumph
Thereafter, they were presumably displayed in the atrium of his family home.
As one of the nobility, he was entitled to a particular kind of funeral, in which a string of actors walked behind his bier, wearing the masks of his ancestors; another actor represented the general himself, and his highest achievement in life, by wearing his funeral mask, triumphal laurels and toga picta.

Augustan ideology (Augustus age/Roman Empire 27 BC – 14 AD)
Insisted that Augustus has saved and restored the Republic
It celebrated his triumph as a permanent condition
His military, political and religious leadership as responsible for an unprecedented era of stability, peace and prosperity.

Jesus’ Triumphal March to Crucifixion

Scholars have long recognized that the Evangelists do not simply report the events of Jesus’ life.
They select, arrange and modify material at their disposal to stress important themes.

Mark’s gospel was probably written for gentile Christians living in Rome.
Mark’s contemporaries might well have grasped a pattern of meaning that has gone unrecognized by modern Bible commentators.
In Mark’s gospel, the crucifixion procession is a kind of Roman triumphal march, with Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa replacing the Sacra Via of Rome.

The Latin word  Via Sacra (Sacred Road) was the main street of ancient Rome, leading from the top of the Capitoline Hill, through some of the most important religious sites of the Forum (where it is the widest street), to the Colosseum.
The road was part of the traditional route of the Roman Triumph that began on the outskirts of the city and proceeded through the Roman Forum.

The Latin word Via Dolorosa (Way of Grief, Way of Sorrows, Way of Suffering or simply Painful Way) is a street, in two parts, within the Old City of Jerusalem, held to be the path that Jesus walked, carrying his cross, on the way to his crucifixion.

Mark presents Jesus’ defeat and death, the moment of his greatest suffering and humiliation, as both literally and figuratively a triumph.

The Crucifixion Procession As Described In Mark 15:16–39

Even prior to Mark’s gospel (before about 70 A.D.), Christ was understood as a triumphator.

In 2 Corinthians 2:14–16, Paul proclaims:[1]

14   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.
15   For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
16   To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?  (NIV)

First-century triumphs included the distribution of aromatic substances along the route of the procession.
It signified:  

1.      The preservation of the life of the triumphator
2.      The death of his captives, some of whom would be killed.

Whether or not Paul extends the metaphor, there can be no mistaking his allusion to Christ as triumphator.

Mark’s crucifixion and the Roman triumph

Mark’s crucifixion narrative contains a number of striking parallels to the Roman triumph.

1.        Mark’s narrative begins with the Roman soldiers leading Jesus into “the courtyard of the palace.”
The word Mark uses to refer to this place is praetorium, which could apply to military headquarters in general but was also the common designation in Rome for the place and personnel of the imperial guard.
The praetorian guard, which made or broke the power of emperors, was invariably present on the occasion of a triumph, and, significantly, it was called together en masse.

2.        Mark then tells us that “they called together the whole cohort.”
It would be extremely odd for the entire soldiery (at least 200 men) to be called together to mock and beat a single prisoner.
We should consider the details here as carefully chosen to evoke a familiar occasion, namely, the gathering of the soldiery in preparation for a triumphal march.

3.             They dress Jesus in the purple triumphal garb and place a crown of laurel on his head. (Mark 15:17)
          In one source after another, the triumphator is introduced clad in a ceremonial purple robe and a crown.
          The wearing of purple was outlawed for anyone below equestrian rank (Order of Knights).

4.             Before the procession began, when the triumphator appeared in ceremonial garb, he would meet with the soldiers to receive their accolades.
          So in Mark’s gospel the immediate sequel to the appearance of Jesus in royal garb is the mock homage of the soldiers (“They began saluting him”).
          Their shout, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Mark 15:18), may in fact correspond to a formulaic response in a triumph.
5.             As the soldiers lead Jesus along the Via Dolorosa, they compel an onlooker, Simon, to bear the cross.
Simon is identified as from Cyrene (a Greek colony in North Africa) and as the father of Alexander and Rufus, who were probably known to Mark’s audience as church figures (Romans 16:13; 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 4:14).

It may also suggest another formulaic element in a triumph.
A consistent feature in the numerous monuments depicting triumphs is the sacrificial bull, led along dressed and crowned to signify its identity with the triumphator.
But the bull is not alone.
An official walked alongside the bull.
He carries over his shoulder a double-bladed ax, the instrument of the victim’s death.

Like the official who bears the ax, Simon carries the instrument of the sacrifice’s—in this case Jesus’—death: the cross.

6.        Crucifixions were common enough in the Roman world that major cities set aside special places for them.
The crucified bodies, in various stages of suffering or decomposition, provided a public warning to potential malefactors.

In Rome, the place was the Campus Esquilinus
In Jerusalem, Mark gives the name of the place, Golgotha
Mark translates it for his readers: “which means the place of a skull.”
In Hebrew Golgotha denotes not an empty skull but more generally the head.
This is also true of the Greek translation.
Therefore, “place of the head” or perhaps “place of the death’s-head” would be a more accurate rendering.

There is a remarkable coincidence in the name of the place that may constitute another allusion to the triumph.
Dionysius of Halicarnassus records the legend that, during the laying of a foundation for a temple on a certain Roman hill, a human head was discovered with its features intact.
Soothsayers proclaimed:
“Romans, tell your fellow citizens it is ordered by fate that the place in which you found the head shall be the head of all Italy,”
(And) Since that time the place is called the Capitoline hill from the head that was found there; for the Romans call heads capita.

The temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, or more simply the Capitolium, was the terminus of every Roman triumph.
The procession would wind through the streets to the Forum, culminating in the ascent of the triumphator to the place of sacrifice—the place named after a death’s-head.

Golgotha was the Capitolium (head) to which the triumphator ascended.

7.        Before reaching Golgotha, the soldiers offer Jesus myrrhed wine, but he refuses to drink (Mark 15:23).

       The supreme moment of the triumph is the moment of sacrifice.
       Just prior to the sacrifice of the bull, or in a few cases simultaneous with the sacrifice, the triumphator was offered a cup of wine
       The triumphator would refuse the wine and then pour it on the altar.
       He may pour it on the sacrificial animal itself.
       The wine obviously signifies the precious blood of the victim.
       The links between triumphator, wine and victim signify their connection.
The bull is the god who dies and appears as the victor in the person of the triumphator.

At the crucial moment of a triumph, the moment of sacrifice, expensive wine is poured out.

The very next words in Mark’s account are “and they crucified him.”

This again suggests a close association between wine and sacrifice.

In an earlier scene in Mark’s narrative, the Last Supper, Jesus himself makes the connection between the drinking of wine, sacrifice and triumphant renewal:

Mark 14 : 24 – 25
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.
“Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (NIV)

The refusal of wine suggests the painful humiliation of the crucifixion is in fact a victorious triumph.

8.        Another remarkable detail reported by Mark is that Jesus is executed with “two bandits, one on his right and one on his left” (Mark 15:27).

In the world of Mark’s audience, placement on the right and left of an elevated person signified royal enthronement.
Earlier in Mark’s narration, for example, he tells us that two disciples request to be seated on Jesus’ right and left when he is enthroned (Mark 10:37).
In the triumph, the triumphator is normally alone, but the few exceptions are notable

Suetonius, a Roman historian of the early second century, records a triumph of the youthful Tiberius, who “took his seat beside Augustus between the two consuls.”
When Vitellius accepted the title “imperator” at Lugdunum in 68 A.D., he “spoke in praise of [his conquering generals] Valens and Caecina in public assembly and placed them on either side of his own curule chair.”
In 71 A.D. Vespasian celebrated his triumph over the Jews with Titus beside him in the triumphal chariot and Domitian riding alongside; the three then performed together the culminating events of the triumph.

In each of these instances, a threesome appears elevated above an admiring throng in order to express power through solidarity.

It is probable, then, that the crucifixion of criminals on either side of Jesus is a conscious expression of the mockery of his kingship on the part of the soldiers.
They are the mock equivalent of those displayed on either side of an enthroned ruler.

9.        The epiphany is confirmed in portents by the gods: ‘Truly this man is the Son of God!’
The opening sentence of Mark’s gospel identifies Jesus as “the Son of God,”
But no human voice gives him that title until after he dies.
Struck with wonder as he watches Jesus breathe his last, a Roman centurion gasps, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mark 15:39).
The moment of Jesus’ death, the moment of his sacrifice, is the culmination of Mark’s parable of triumph.
But Mark presents the crucifixion as an “anti-triumph”—with Jesus mocked and killed—to show that the seeming scandal of the cross is actually an exaltation of Christ.

Jesus is a triumphator.
He has triumphed over:

1.       Jewish ceremonial law
2.       Worldy philosophies
3.       Gentile religious and superstitious belifs and practices

As atriumphator, he claims:

Decisive vistory over enemies
Disarmament of enemies
Expansion of his empire

All those who believe in His triumphal sacrifce are now participating in the triumphal celebration of the Great General.
The procession continues though the triumphator has reached the Place of head (Capitol - Golgotha)
After the whole procession reached the final point, there will be the great FEAST OF THE LAMB.

So live in triumph over Ceremonial laws, worldly philosophies and gentile practices.
Let us shout “io triumphe”

Professor Jacob Abraham

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Epistles to Corinthians (1&2) were written during 53-57 AD and Mark’s Gospel was written around 70 AD

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