Just before dying on the cross, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “Trouble” alludes to life in a fallen world. With everything from genocide to economic strain to sexual confusion plaguing us, “trouble” seems an almost comic understatement. Yet Jesus tells us to have peace in Him because He has overcome. When a crying toddler has us on the ropes, Jesus has overcome that. When we have one drink too many, Jesus has overcome that. When disease takes someone we love, Jesus has overcome that. However we want to fill in the blank—with divorce, school shootings, mass starvation, or depression—Jesus has overcome.
The question is, How did Jesus overcome? We know that Adam didn’t follow God’s command in the garden. In effect, Adam said to God, “Not what you want but what I want.” Since then, every individual has pursued what they want instead of what God wants. Adam’s choice was the proverbial pebble thrown in the pond. The ripples from that choice have surged into the tidal waves of problems that threaten to sweep us away on a daily basis. Jesus, however, made a different choice. He said to God, “Not what I want but what you want” (Matt. 26:39). The world was first overcome in the heart of Christ when He chose to do what the Father wanted and to die on the cross.
Christ’s choice is having its own ripple effect. 1 John 5:5 says, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” When we believe in Jesus, we receive a new heart, the heart of Christ, which wants what the Father wants (Ezek. 36:26, 27). As we live by that heart, we start to overcome the effects of the fall in our own lives.
By extension, the church is a gathering of those with new hearts. To be sure, we still deal with each other’s failings and sins. But we also get a glimpse of life in a community where the fall is no longer a reality. The church is a window to an existence that is coming and yet is already at work within us—where there is no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, where the old order has passed away and all things are new (Rev. 21:4, 5).
We bring the culture of overcoming to our interactions with people in this world. To those whose only reality is living with the conditions of the fall, we can offer compassion and respite from “trouble.”The ripples of the cross continue beyond the church and human society. One day, the universe will be liberated from every last trace of the fall (Rom. 8:21). The manifestation of this won’t occur until Christ returns. But the fact of it began at the cross. For every kind of sin, problem, sickness, and disorder of nature, we can find a corresponding cure in Christ’s death and resurrection. It would take a whole other book to explore this in any detail. But Trumpets announces, with fanfare, that Jesus has overcome and continues to overcome through us: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21).