“…In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Jesus gave us these encouraging and empowering words when it appeared to everybody that the exact opposite was true. He spoke these words when He was standing on the very threshold of death. Now, there were certainly times in Jesus’ life when He could have made this statement, and everybody would have said, “That’s right. You have overcome the world.” For example, when Jesus walked out of the tomb, destroying death itself, we could understand such a statement. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, leaving the wickedness and weight of the world behind, again, we could understand such a statement. But to make such a bold claim in the middle of the world’s attack upon Him – that seems a very strange statement indeed.
Why is that? When does a man beat his enemy? When he has him on his back on the mat? No, that is simply the defeat of the enemy, it is not the defeat of the enmity. Is it when He leaves his enemy behind? No, that is just an escape, it does not mean that he has overcome. The real time of triumph – of overcoming your enemy is that hour in which you find something worthwhile, good in him. The moment that you can stand in his presence and not be completely consumed.
That is the way it was with Jesus and the trials of His life. He beat them down by His rising; He left them behind in His ascension, but the only way that He overcame them was through His voluntarily going to and dying on the cross. The moment that He took the cup was the moment that He overcame the world. When He tasted that bitter cup and did not draw back – that was the hour of His greatest triumph. That was when He overcame the world.
That’s why the voice of Jesus from the Cross encourages and strengthens my heart. Surely, there are other words of victory spoken by Jesus – the words of His resurrection and ascension, but those are beyond me. I cannot destroy death or escape this world on my own. However, I can take the cup for it is my cup. It is not a miraculous cup or a mysterious cup like some would think. It is simply the cup made from my own sorrows. That’s why, when I see my cup in His hand and hear Him say, “I have tasted it, and I have overcome,” I am strengthened in my soul.
How many times, when I was a boy, did one of my friends jump into the lake when the air was still cold and shout back, “Come on in! It’s not too cold.” That’s the way it is with Jesus. He calls to me from the waves of difficulty and distress – waves into which I’m one day sure to have to plunge. He cries back, “Don’t worry, I’ve already tested the waters, and they’re not too cold or stormy. Oh, they may rise, but they will not overcome you. I have met them at their highest, I’ve seen them at their worst; I know the most that they can do, and I’m telling you that even at their worst they are not overwhelming. I have tested their limits and held my courage. I have seen their strength and maintained my footing. I have felt their force and have held fast my faith. I have tested their depths, and there is solid ground below. “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”