NIVThe phrase "public spectacle" refers to the victory parade of a conquering Caesar or King returning to the capital city displaying the spoils and prisoners of war before a cheering and adoring citizenry. On the cross Jesus is leading just such a victory parade, displaying the disarmed "powers and authorities" and making "a public spectacle of them." Some other translations that try to bring out this meaning in Col. 2.15:
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
CEVWhat is startling about this sort of language is how, from all appearances, it is Jesus, nailed to the cross, who is the one being publicly shamed, defeated and humiliated by Imperial Rome.
There Christ defeated all powers and forces. He let the whole world see them being led away as prisoners when he celebrated his victory.
And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession.
He disarmed those who once ruled over us—those who had overpowered us. Like captives of war, He put them on display to the world to show His victory over them by means of the cross.
And yet, Col. 2.15 posits a crazy, insane and stunning reversal. On the cross Jesus makes a "public spectacle" of Rome. On the cross Jesus is shaming, disarming, humiliating and defeating the principalities and powers, taking them as captives in war.