THE ORIGINAL OVERCOMER
1. “Overcome” is one of the favorite words of the apostle John because it paints a picture which is central to the gospel of Christ.
a. It means “to conquer, vanquish, subdue, prevail”–this is the word for being victorious! (Analytical Greek Lexicon, 277)
b. It appears twenty-eight times in the New Testament, and twenty-four of those times it is used by John, seventeen in Revelation. (Hailey, Revelation, 118)
c. The fact that he so often applies it to servants of God while they are under pressure speaks volumes about the spirit of Christian living.
2. It grows out of this saying of Jesus: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
a. He was concluding–maybe summarizing–the long conversation with his disciples which had begun, “Let not your hearts be troubled...” (14:1).
b. He described their situation with three sharp contrasts: “may have...will have,” “peace...tribulation,” and “in me...in the world.”
c. Then, in that decisive hour, he gave them reason to take heart by issuing a startling claim: “I have overcome the world.”
3. One writer observed, “This statement, spoken as it was in the shadow of the cross, is audacious. The cross would seem to the outsider to be Christ’s total defeat. He sees it as His complete victory over all that the world is and can do to Him.” (L. Morris, The Gospel According to John, 714-715)
a. How can it be?
b. Well, “overcoming” is not evading the enemy or escaping his attacks; overcoming is enduring his worst and emerging as his conqueror.
c. “The world” Jesus was overcoming is not the world of people, or the world of nature, but the world of godlessness, the realm of the evil one.
d. By living in the domain of “the ruler of this world,” even under the most extreme pressure, without ever, in any way, coming under his dominion, our Lord was overcoming the world.
4. What he said to encourage his friends that night is actually an announcement of the completion of a very meaningful New Testament theme.
a. 1 Jn. 3:8 – “...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
b. Heb. 2:14, 15 – “...he himself...partook of [flesh and blood], that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
c. Matt. 12:29 – “...how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?...”
d. Jn. 12:31, 32 – “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”
e. Jn. 14:30 – “...for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me...”
f. Acts 2:24 – “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”
g. 1 Cor. 15:54, 57–“...Death is swallowed up in victory....thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
5. So much depends on whether has overcome the world! Have you ever thought of the evidence the Gospels provide in this way?
1. Jesus overcame the worst that can arise within you.
a. Temptations. When he was tempted, it was with lines like these: “It’s your life; satisfy your own physical desires...Anything you have to do to get possession of everything that is a delight to your eyes is worth it...Use the easiest and quickest ways you can to gain acclaim and power for yourself” (Lk. 4:1-13). Any temptation you can think of is gathered up in one of those lines, and they are the same ones we still hear (Heb. 4:15).
b. Distractions. You and I know what it is like to get our attention divided, our priorities jumbled, and our inner life choked. What about him? People were looking for him (Mk. 1:37), wanting to see him, asking questions, presenting problems, and making demands (Lk. 12:13). He still kept his relationship with the Father in view and his purpose in focus (Mk. 1:38; 10:35).
c. Emotions. “Feelings” are the movers and shakers of any person’s inner life, the place where words and actions are formed. They can be provoked or hurt or impassioned. They are difficult to manage. Jesus knew them all: anger and grief (Mk. 3:5), frustration (Mk. 9:19), a sorrowful, distressed, and troubled spirit (Matt. 26:38; Mk. 14:33, 35), and terrible loneliness (Matt. 27:46). Still, his heart remained pure, his actions upright, and his words honorable. In his inner life, Jesus has overcome the world.
2. Christ overcame the worst that can be said about you.
a. Criticism. Who can keep on serving in the face of constant, little, insincere, harsh faultfinding? Won’t the things muttered behind your back get to nearly anyone? Christ endured it all the time: “He has gone into the house of a sinner (Lk. 19:7)...This man receives sinners and eats with them (Lk. 15:2)...He is a glutton and a drunkard (Matt. 11:19)...Why does he break the tradition of the elders? (Matt. 15:2)...This man is blaspheming (Matt. 9:3).” What did he do about it? “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).
b. Accusations. Since it is the Divine nature to hate a false witness who breathes out lies (Prov. 6:19), Christ must have felt that way about it. Yet, he himself was the subject of baseless allegations like these: “He misleads our nation and forbids us o give tribute to Caesar” (Lk. 23:2)...He stirs up the people (Lk. 23:5)...We heard him say he would destroy the temple and build another in three days” (Mk. 14:58). He was accused of many other such things (Mk. 15:3). His only answer to that kind of stuff was his own personal dignity.
c. Ridicule. Mocking words are the most cruel of all, for they discount the worth of their subject, especially when they are spouted out in significant moments in that person’s life. But these are the kinds of things heaped on our Lord from all sides: “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matt. 27:29)...You who destroys the temple and rebuilds it in three days, save yourself! (Matt. 27:40)...Since you are the Son of God, come down from the cross (Matt. 27:40)...He saved others; he cannot save himself (Matt. 27:42)...He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him (Matt. 27:43)...Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Lk. 23:39). In his social life, Jesus has overcome the world. “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22).
3. Our Lord overcame the worst that can be done to you.
a. Demands. There are plenty of indications that Jesus experienced the physical demands of everyday life that we all do.
i. He was “wearied as he was from his journey” at Jacob’s well (Jn. 4:6) and asleep in the boat that was being swamped by waves (Matt. 8:24).
ii. He certainly knew hunger (Matt. 4:2) and thirst (Jn. 19:28).
iii. The Hebrew writer says “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect” (Heb. 2:17) and can “sympathize with our weaknesses (4:15).
b. Wounds. That is why the things done to him make an impression on us. Some years ago in a little tract he authored, Joe Barnett pointed out that there are five basic kinds of wounds, and that, for us, our Lord experienced them all.
i. The contused wound, caused by a blow from a blunt instrument: Jesus was struck on the face with hands and hit on the head with a rod (Matt. 26:67; 27:30).
ii. The lacerated wound, caused by a tearing instrument: furrows were plowed on his back by scourging with the whip (Ps. 129:3; Mk. 15:15).
iii. The penetrating wound, caused by a sharp pointed instrument: like those from the thorns twisted into a crown and pressed upon his head, which was then struck with the reed (Matt. 27:30).
iv. The perforating wound, caused by piercing through: as when his hands and feet were attached to the cross with spikes (which is what “and they crucified him” means, Ps. 22:16; Mk. 15:24).
v. The incised wound, cause by a sharp-edged instrument: remember the spear in his side to make sure he had died (Jn. 19:34, 37).
c. Still, “when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23). In his physical life, our Lord has overcome the world.
4. “But take heart; I have overcome the world,” he said. What does his overcoming have to do with my taking heart?
a. The Lamb-like Lion who has overcome has ransomed a people by his blood and is fully able to complete God’s purposes for them (Rev. 5:3).
b. His people are called to enter the arena in behalf of righteousness and to be overcome along with him (Rev. 17:14).
c. The one who overcomes will have the heritage of life in the family of God (Rev. 21:7).
5. So “in all these things” – what may arise within us, or be said about us, or be done to us – “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”– who is the original overcomer (Rom. 8:37).
6. 1 John 5:4 – “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”