“Take Courage! I Have Conquered the World”
THE day of Jesus’ death—the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan—began at sundown on Thursday, March 31, 33 C.E. On that evening, Jesus and his apostles came together in an upper room of a house in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. As he prepared “to move out of this world to the Father,” Jesus showed that he loved his apostles to the end. (John 13:1) How? By teaching them beautiful lessons, thus preparing them for what lay ahead.
As the night progressed, Jesus told his disciples: “Take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) What did he mean by that bold statement? In part, this: ‘The evil in the world has neither made me bitter nor caused me to retaliate. I have not allowed the world to squeeze me into its mold. This can prove true also in your case.’ What Jesus taught his faithful apostles in those final hours of his earthly life would help them likewise to conquer the world.
Who will deny that badness is abundant in the world today? How do we react to injustices and acts of senseless violence? Do these embitter us or tempt us to repay like for like? How are we influenced by the moral decay that surrounds us? Add to this our human imperfections and sinful tendencies, and we have a battle to fight on two fronts: against the wicked world outside and against the bad tendencies within us. Can we really hope to come off victorious without God’s help? How can we receive his help? What qualities should we cultivate to help us oppose fleshly inclinations? For answers, let us turn to what Jesus taught his beloved disciples on the last day of his life on earth.
Conquer Pride With Humility
Consider, for example, the problem of pride, or haughtiness. Concerning it, the Bible states: “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Proverbs 16:18) The Scriptures also counsel us: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deceiving his own mind.” (Galatians 6:3) Yes, pride is destructive and deceptive. We are wise to hate “self-exaltation and pride.”—Proverbs 8:13.
Did Jesus’ apostles have a problem with self-exaltation and pride? On at least one occasion, they argued among themselves about who was greater. (Mark 9:33-37) At another time, James and John requested prominent positions in the Kingdom. (Mark 10:35-45) Jesus desired to help his disciples get rid of this tendency. So in the course of eating the Passover meal, he got up, girded himself with a towel, and proceeded to wash the feet of his disciples. He left no doubt as to the lesson he wanted them to learn. “If I, although Lord and Teacher, washed your feet,” said Jesus, “you also ought to wash the feet of one another.” (John 13:14) Pride must be replaced by its opposite—humility.
Pride, though, is not easy to conquer. Later that evening after Jesus had dismissed Judas Iscariot, who was about to betray him, a heated argument erupted among the 11 apostles. Their concern? Which one of them seemed to be greatest! Rather than scolding them, once again Jesus patiently stressed the importance of serving others. He said: “The kings of the nations lord it over them, and those having authority over them are called Benefactors. You, though, are not to be that way. But let him that is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the one acting as chief as the one ministering.” Reminding them of his example, he adds: “I am in your midst as the one ministering.”—Luke 22:24-27.
Did the apostles get the point? Evidently so. Years later the apostle Peter wrote: “All of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling, having brotherly affection, tenderly compassionate, humble in mind.” (1 Peter 3:8) How vital that we too conquer pride with humility! We are wise not to get caught up in the pursuit of fame, power, or position. “God opposes the haughty ones,” states the Bible, “but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (James 4:6) Likewise, an ancient wise proverb states: “The result of humility and the fear of Jehovah is riches and glory and life.”—Proverbs 22:4.
Consider another trait common in the world—hatred. Whether caused by fear, ignorance, prejudice, oppression, injustice, nationalism, tribalism, or racism, hatred seems to be all around us. (2 Timothy 3:1-4) Hatred was also rampant in Jesus’ day. Tax collectors were hated outcasts in Jewish society. Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. (John 4:9) And Gentiles, or non-Jews, were also scorned by the Jews. Eventually, however, the way of worship Jesus instituted was to embrace people from all nations. (Acts 10:34, 35; Galatians 3:28) So he lovingly gave his disciples something new.
Jesus declared: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” They had to learn to display this love, for he continued: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) The commandment was new in that it went beyond loving “your fellow as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) In what way? Jesus clarified the matter, saying: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:12, 13) They had to be willing to sacrifice their very lives for one another and for others.
How can imperfect humans eliminate malicious hatred from their lives? By replacing it with self-sacrificing love. Millions of sincere individuals from all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political backgrounds are doing just that. They are now being integrated into one united, hate-free community—the global brotherhood of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They take to heart the inspired words of the apostle John: “Everyone who hates his brother is a manslayer, and you know that no manslayer has everlasting life remaining in him.” (1 John 3:15) True Christians not only refuse to take up arms in any conflict but also work hard to show love for one another.
What, though, should be our mental attitude toward those who are not our fellow believers and who might show hatred toward us? While hanging upon a stake, Jesus prayed in behalf of his executioners, saying: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) When hate-filled men stoned the disciple Stephen to death, his final words were: “Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) Jesus and Stephen wanted the best even for those who hated them. There was no bitterness in their hearts. “Let us work what is good toward all,” the Bible admonishes us.—Galatians 6:10.
‘A Helper Forever’
As the meeting with his 11 faithful apostles progressed, Jesus informed them that soon he would no longer be with them in the flesh. (John 14:28; 16:28) But he assured them: “I will request the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever.” (John 14:16) The promised helper is God’s holy spirit. It would teach them deep things of the Scriptures and bring back to their minds what Jesus had taught them during his earthly ministry.—John 14:26.
How can the holy spirit help us today? Well, the Bible is God’s inspired Word. The men who were used to utter prophecies and to write the Bible “were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Timothy 3:16) Our studying the Scriptures and applying what we learn gives us knowledge, wisdom, understanding, insight, discernment, and thinking ability. Are we then not better prepared to face the pressures of the wicked world?
The holy spirit is a helper in yet another way. God’s holy spirit is a powerful force for good, enabling those under its influence to display godly qualities. “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control,” says the Bible. Are these not the very qualities we need in order to conquer fleshly inclinations toward immorality, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, and the like?—Galatians 5:19-23.
By relying on God’s spirit, we can also receive “power beyond what is normal” to deal with any trouble or distress. (2 Corinthians 4:7) While the holy spirit may not remove trials or temptations, it can surely help us to endure them. (1 Corinthians 10:13) “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me,” wrote the apostle Paul. (Philippians 4:13) God imparts such power by means of his holy spirit. How grateful we can be for the holy spirit! It is promised to those who ‘love Jesus and keep his commandments.’—John 14:15.
“Remain in My Love”
On his final night as a human, Jesus also told his apostles: “He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. In turn he that loves me will be loved by my Father.” (John 14:21) “Remain in my love,” he urged them. (John 15:9) How does remaining in the love of the Father and of the Son help us in our battle with sinful inclinations within us and with the wicked world outside?
Well, can we really control bad tendencies if we lack strong motivation to do so? What greater incentive can there be than the desire to have a good relationship with Jehovah God and his Son? Ernesto,* a young man who fought a hard battle against the immoral life-style that he had lived since his early teens, explains: “I wanted to please God, and I learned from the Bible that he did not approve of the way I was living. So I decided to be a different sort of person, to abide by God’s guidelines. Every day, I had to fight against negative, dirty thoughts that still came flooding into my mind. But I was determined to win this battle, and I prayed incessantly for God’s help. After two years the worst was over, although I am still strict with myself.”
As to the battle with the world outside, consider the closing prayer Jesus offered before leaving that upper room in Jerusalem. In behalf of his disciples, he prayed to his Father and asked: “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:15, 16) How reassuring! Jehovah watches over those whom he loves and strengthens them as they keep separate from the world.
Observing Jesus’ commandments can indeed help us come off victorious in our struggle against the wicked world and our sinful tendencies. Important as such victories are, though, they can eliminate neither the world nor inherited sin. But we need not despair.
“The world is passing away and so is its desire,” declares the Bible, “but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Jesus gave his life to rescue from sin and death “everyone exercising faith in him.” (John 3:16) As we grow in our knowledge of God’s will and purposes, then, let us take to heart Jesus’ admonition: “Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me.”—John 14:1.
A substitute name is used here.
[Picture on page 6, 7]
“Remain in my love,” Jesus urged his apostles
[Picture on page 7]
Freedom from sin and its effects will soon become a reality