Be Of Good Cheer, I Have Overcome!
Just before the Lord was betrayed and cruelly put to death, He spoke with His chosen twelve in regard to the events which were about to happen and what they could expect as they walked as His disciples. Jesus was very straightforward in His speaking with them: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In just a few hours from this declaration of victory, Jesus would be arrested, beaten, condemned and crucified. In the eyes of one who would have observed the events that immediately followed the Lord's “victory speech,” Jesus was not the victor; instead, He suffered total defeat. Even His own disciples came to this same conclusion as they fled for their lives and later remained in hiding. How could Jesus claim victory in the face of apparent defeat? Where was the solace in this scenario? How could one say that Jesus overcame the world?
First, our Lord overcame the world by living a life without sin. Matthew recorded His temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus continued to face temptation as He was questioned and challenged by those who hated Him. He was certainly tempted as time drew near for Him to suffer and die upon the cross. Through all of this, Jesus lived above sin. The Hebrew author wrote, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Second, Jesus overcame the world by living as an obedient Son to His Father. “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). Unlike those of the world, Jesus did not walk the same path, living according to selfish desires and pleasures; He, rather, sanctified Himself to doing His Father will. Paul wrote that Jesus “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4). Though Jesus was the Son of God and could have claimed privilege to do as He pleased, yet He learned obedience by the things that He suffered, and in doing so overcame the world (Hebrews 5:8).
Thirdly, Jesus overcame the world by offering Himself up as the perfect sacrifice. It was through His perfect sacrifice that forgiveness of sins was made possible. The apostle Paul wrote, “…by which He [the Father] made us accepted in the Beloved [Jesus]. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:6-7). Throughout time blood has been required to atone for sin. We are told, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus' sacrifice made forgiveness available to all men.
Fourth, upon that first day of the week following His crucifixion, our Lord overcame the world by rising from the dead. On the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke of Jesus' resurrection as he preached to the crowd: “…whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:24). Jesus' resurrection freed God's people from the fear of the grave. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Finally, our Lord overcame the world when He ascended back to heaven to reign as King of Kings. “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool” (Hebrews 10:12-13).
Jesus told His disciples that they should expect tribulation as they served in His kingdom. God's people throughout time have experienced the same. However, Christians can take comfort in knowing that Jesus has overcome the world and that through Him they too will overcome! Jesus has promised that He will return and take His people home with Him for all eternity. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:1-4).
It may have appeared that Jesus met with total defeat as He struggled to carry his cross and was crucified at Calvary. However, this was actually the means by which God had planned that victory would be won over Satan, the world, and death. As we face trials in our lives, we can take heart in the knowledge that Jesus overcame and that through all of these trials it is God's design that we, too, through His Son shall overcome!