“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I love these words of Jesus from the Gospel of John. It is so indicative of the spiritual level at which he was thinking and living.
The Last Supper is over and Jesus is counseling the remaining 11 disciples about what’s going to happen in a few short hours. He is also forewarning them of some of the challenges they are going to face in this material world. But he says to be of good cheer. Why? Because he has already overcome the world. Here is Jesus, about to be crucified and he is comforting his disciples. That is so like our Lord.
I’ve been thinking a lot these last few days about Jesus’ declaration, “I have overcome the world.” He said this before the agony of Gethsemane and the crucifixion. He had not outwardly proved this victory over the world. And yet he states emphatically, “I have overcome the world.” Jesus claims this victory “before the battle” so to speak.
Was Jesus just giving himself and his disciples a pep talk like a football coach might do before a big game? “Okay team, we are going to win this one!” I think there was more to it. However good or confident a football team may be compared to the other team, it is never 100% certain who will win.
And Jesus did not say, “I am going to overcome the world.” He said he already had. Big difference. It’s not just that Jesus knew he would be victorious–because he did know this. But on a deep spiritual level, the Bible seems to indicate that Jesus had already defeated the enemy in his heart. He just had to go through the details of proving this in his life–for himself and for us.
This fits with Jesus’ practice of thanking God for something before it had happened. When he fed the multitudes, he gave thanks for and blessed what was available before the loaves and fish were multiplied. Before he called Lazarus out of the tomb, he thanked God for hearing and answering his prayer. He knew what would happen in both cases and he thanked his Father and saw the solutions before they were obvious to everyone else.
And so with the resurrection. Jesus announced he was already victorious over the world– death, the grave, the sins of the world, over all evil–before he was crucified. And if you can read between the lines, I think he is expressing a lot of gratitude in this verse.
What are the implications of Jesus’ victory?
Not only did he overcome his own death, he overcame death itself–for all mankind, for all time.
Just try to imagine the picture of Jesus on the cross. Artists over the ages have painted that poignant scene too many times to count. I’m sure you have one that’s meaningful to you. There have been numerous movies and TV specials over the years trying to catch the spirit of what was happening on the dark Friday afternoon almost 2000 years ago.
But just try to imagine how it looked to the crowd. Here was a man who had brought hope of God’s salvation to the people and he had been defeated. Many in the crowd had believed he was the promised Messiah, but now their expectations were dashed. There was fear, doubt and utter dismay in their hearts.
For all practical purposes, it looked like Satan was boasting, “Look everyone, I have killed Christ. I have overcome Truth!”
But Jesus told us pointedly that the Devil is a liar and there is no truth in him. Then, if what the Devil says is a lie, then the opposite of what he said must be true. That means that the Devil, Satan, the Adversary, evil, the carnal mind, whatever you want to call it, was not crucifying Christ. Christ was crucifying Satan– all evil, all sin, all disease, all death.
In the agony of Gethsemane, Jesus had given up all vestige of his own will. He submitted entirely to God’s will–which, by the way, included not just the crucifixion but the resurrection as well. And on the cross, there was so much going on that the human eyes could not take in. Among other things, Jesus was sacrificing (doing away with) a limited material sense of man as just an animated lump of clay and proving that man’s true life is spiritual and eternal, made in the image of God. See Genesis 1:26.
Jesus did all this not just for himself. He did it for us. He showed us by his supreme example of love and unselfishness how we are to live our lives. By his willingness to face the ultimate foe and his victory over this foe, our Master shattered the hold that evil has on us. He has already won the victory over all evil.
His victory gives us the victory.
Evil, or Satan if you prefer, is already defeated– was already defeated before the crucifixion or Jesus would not and could not have said so boldly, “I have overcome the world.”
How does this apply to you and me?
Are we standing on the Rock of Christ and holding in our hearts Jesus’ victory over the world–the materialism and evil of the day, the hatred and disinterest in Christ, Truth?
Are we claiming our own victory over the world– the fear, the want and woes, the challenges that face us?
Are we pre-claiming the victory for those who come to us for help with their worldly tribulations that Jesus said would occur?
And what about those who don’t seem receptive to hearing about God or love or forgiveness or Jesus’ message of salvation? Do we give up on them or do we claim their right to a victory as well?
Jesus has already overcome whatever challenge anyone, anywhere, anytime will face.
So at this Easter season, take some quiet time with God to plant your feet on the Rock of the Resurrected Christ and on Jesus’ victory over the world. Claim your own victory over the world as well.
The consequences are grand.
God speaks directly to us in the Book of Revelation, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.” Rev. 21:7 What else do we need?
Have a Resurrection Easter.