Have you ever wondered how Jesus could say “I have overcome the world,” before he was crucified?
Easter is in just a few days and I’ve been thinking about something Jesus said to his disciples after the Last Supper and just before he went to the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s his famous saying, “I have overcome the world.” I’ve been pondering what he meant.
Jesus knew exactly what was coming. He had tried to warn his disciples ahead of time that he would be arrested, tried, falsely accused, and crucified. And he also explained he would return after these ordeals. But they just couldn’t take it in. They had no hooks to hang that information on.
Getting ready for Easter
During the week before Easter, I always like to read the Gospel of John, starting with chapter 13. John goes into incredible detail of what Jesus did, how he tried to prepare the disciples for what was coming, what he was thinking, and above all how he prayed and faced the events that led up to, including, the crucifixion.
And of course we see Jesus’s victory over death and the grave, in fact, over the sins and evils of the world.
And every time I read these chapters, this one verse really stands out to me. And it’s the one I’ve been thinking these last few days as we get closer to Easter.
After Jesus has tried to prepare his disciples for the challenges that are coming he says to them,
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NIV
Every time I read this, I have to pause and really take that in. Even before the crucifixion, and his resurrection, which is what we usually think of as Jesus’s victory, he could say, “I have overcome the world.”
Think about this for just a minute. Jesus was not just claiming a victory that hadn’t occurred yet. The verb tense in this sentence is the perfect indicative, which means it is action which has occurred in the past once and for all. The indicative mood simply refers to a statement of fact.
Jesus is actually saying, before his visible victory of the resurrection, that it is a fact he has already overcome the world.
I talk a lot about the mindset of Jesus on The Bible Speaks to You Podcast. This statement, ”I have overcome the world,” is an open door that invites us into the mind of Christ, to know, love, and follow Jesus more closely.
I believe Jesus is saying he has already won the victory on a spiritual level. He knows he has already overcome the world with all its sin and hatred of the truth. But he lets that spiritual victory be put to the test here on earth, so to speak, so he can prove that God’s will of salvation “be done in earth as it is in heaven.”
Think of this supreme example of Jesus’s mindset, winning and acknowledging his victory over all the world’s evil before it came to pass on the human scene.
Here’s what I’d like you to think about. What was Jesus’s mindset that allowed him 1) to know he was able to win this victory and then 2) empower him to do it?
Or to put it another way, what was Jesus’s victory-over-the-world mindset?
Let’s dig into this a little bit.
The kingdom-at-heaven mindset
Throughout his ministry, in fact, from the very beginning, Jesus was aware of, preached to others, and taught his disciples to preach, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (see Matthew 4:17; Matthew 10:7 below)
This awareness of the presence of the kingdom of heaven is the corner stone of Jesus’s mindset. Because he is conscious that heaven is at hand, Jesus knows he can never be separated from God, that God is always present, willing and able to heal and save, that God always answers his prayers, and he knows he dwells in heaven with the Father.
Here’s how Jesus explains it to Nicodemus, and if effect, to you and me as well,
No one has ascended to heaven but he who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. John 3:13 NKJV
Now some ancient manuscripts don’t have that last phrase, “who is in heaven.” But even if you leave that out, it doesn’t change the meaning of the text. Because it refers to Jesus having already ascended into heaven.
Jesus was aware that his true dwelling place was heaven. Even during the 33 years he walked on the earth, he was conscious of the fact that spiritually he never left heaven. If heaven is at hand, how could he ever leave or be absent?
This mindset of awareness that heaven is at hand and that he dwelt there, was what allowed him to declare, “I have overcome the world.”
Because he was so completely conscious of his relationship with the Father and his presence in heaven, Jesus knew he was victorious over the world. He had met every temptation the world had to offer. He “destroy[ed] the works of the devil,” (see 1 John 3:8 below) by healing sickness, redeeming sinners, and raising the dead, not to mention stilling storms and feeding thousands of people with a tiny bit of food.
Jesus overcame all the world’s temptations
Every possible challenge the world dished out to Jesus, all its lies and limitations, all its materialism, he overcame. And in so doing, he overcame the world. He was victorious over it all. It was a spiritual victory that took place first in his heart and in his thinking before it could take place in his victory on the cross and in the resurrection.
This victory-over-the-world mindset allowed Jesus to go to the cross knowing he would walk out of the tomb three days later. And it was not just a personal victory over death for himself. It was a collective victory for all mankind, throughout all time, a victory over sin, over death, and over what Paul calls the carnal mind’s “enmity against God.” (see Romans 8:7 NKJV below)
The amazing thing to me is that Jesus let his enemies attempt to destroy him. This actually gave him the opportunity to prove them wrong, that hatred is powerless in the presence of God’s love, that sin is powerless in the presence of Christ’s holiness, and that darkness is powerless to extinguish the light.
To sum up this idea, I’ll just say that Jesus “overcame the world” spiritually before what we see as his victory on the cross and in his resurrection.
Can you and I overcome the world?
So the question is: Can you and I embrace this I-have-overcome-the-world mindset of Jesus? Can we win our victories spiritually even before we see any evidence of those victories in our day to day lives?
Yes, I believe we can. We may not always do it. But it is possible. And just admitting it’s possible is perhaps the first step in embracing this mindset of Jesus.
Paul says, “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16)
I quote this verse a lot, not just because it’s true, but because we need to remember this powerful truth.
We have the mind of Christ.
That means we can think and act with the same mindset Jesus did in every aspect of our lives and in every situation.
Are you willing to accept this as a possibility, for yourself, right now?
Jesus knew he had already overcome the world before he was nailed to a cross.
How can you and I take that same approach to the challenges we face?
You have already overcome the world to some degree
Well, think of all the little, and big, spiritual victories you’ve had in your life. Maybe a new job opened up for you when you prayed. Maybe a relationship was restored. Maybe you were healed. Maybe you’ve found freedom from sin in your life.
Whatever your victories have been, they have strengthened you spiritually and prepared you for the next victory.
To the degree we adopt the mindset of Jesus, when we know a challenge is coming – and we often do, sometimes just intuitively – we’ll tackle the problem prayerfully and get our victory over it spiritually, before it even occurs. Then when it actually shows up in our lives, we know it’s a foregone conclusion that God will heal and resolve the situation.
The resurrection mindset
The resurrection is not something we should think about just at the Easter season. We need this resurrection mindset, this I-have-overcome-the-world mindset, every single day of our lives.
The resurrection is not a one-time event, relegated to history. It’s an ongoing mental and spiritual awareness that heaven is at hand, that heaven is our dwelling place now, where God constantly reveals His love for all mankind in Jesus’s victory over sin and death.
As you pray and prepare your heart to receive more of the power of Jesus’s resurrection in your own life, remember how Jesus tried to comfort his disciples,
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I’ve been talking about our ability, through God’s help and embracing Jesus’s mindset, to overcome the what the world dishes out at us.
Jesus overcame the world to bless us
But it’s even more powerful to realize Jesus is telling us that whatever problems we may have in this world, he has already overcome. If Jesus has already overcome them, they really don’t have any legitimacy in our lives.
Take a minute and think of a challenge you’re facing right now. Whatever it is, big or small, something recent or longstanding, something subtle or something that blows up in your face, Christ has already overcome it. Christ has already proved it is powerless. Christ has already given you the victory.
It’s as if Jesus said, “I have overcome the world for you.”
And this victory over the world, is not just for you personally. It’s for all mankind. Jesus’s victory over sin and death is for every single person who ever has ever lived.
Cherish this fact. Spend some time this Easter season rejoicing over God’s love for all mankind, and being grateful for Jesus’s gift to you of his victory over the world.
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
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John 16:33 NIV
33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Matthew 4:17 KJV
17 Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Matthew 10:7 NKJV
7 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
John 3:13 NKJV
13 No one has ascended to heaven but he who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.
1 John 3:8 NKJV
8 For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
Romans 8:7 NKJV
7 the carnal mind is enmity against God;
1 Corinthians 2:16 NIV
16 we have the mind of Christ.