Löhe on John 16:33

Christus victor 1But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Joh 16:33 NIV)

When Jesus first said these words, his disciples did not understand him. According to his previous announcement concerning his deliverance into the hands of sinners all now appeared as if he was succumbing ton the world. How on earth can he then say: “I have overcome the world”? How does this being overcome and yet still overcoming fit together? Defeat and victory? Yet both fit like hand in glove. He was to overcome in his death und triumph over world even as he was crucified on the cross in shame and greatest agony. That passes all understanding – especially before it became truth in Jesus Christ and his glorification on the cross. Yet even now – in hindsight – it is not so intelligible for all to grasp just like that. Rather it remains a mystery proclaimed in all the world to create faith where and when it pleases God. This divine gospel bear witness that his ultimate suffering and most shameful death were necessary in God’s eyes and the only way to overcome sin, death and the old evil foe. Therefore he is so confident of his victory even before and although he is still going to go through extreme trepidation and exceeding fear and most profound anguish as he takes the cup of wrath to drain it to its very last dregs, proclaiming: “I have overcome the world!

That’s the blessed gospel. The faithful servant of God, Dr. Martin Luther, comforted many people in their bodily tribulation and spiritual torments with this consoling message after and while he himself was powerfully supported and maintained by the very same godly words. That is why he opined: These words are precious enough to warrant our kneeling down and crawling all the way to Rome and Jerusalem to take hold of them! They are most suitable for all seasons in the Church. It was truth in Jesus Christ’s proclamation. He proved it on Golgotha and we still live off this most precious reality even today until he comes again in glory to show us and make it clear for everybody else to see with their very own eyes. That is how he brought about our salvation and the eternal Sabbath too – the heavenly rest for God’s own.

O Lord teach us to fear you alone, so that we are thus freed from all other trepidation and overcome all intimidation too being thus comforted by your all powerful, most gracious and abiding presence. Nothing and nobody can effectively accuse us anymore as you are there to justify and redeem us of all our debt and guilt. There is nobody, who could condemn us when you yourself adjudicate us free, absolved and forgiven. All praise, honor and glory is yours o heavenly Father and only true and triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and from you to us here on earth grace, peace and mercy. Amen.

The foe in triumph shouted When Christ lay in the tomb; But, lo, he now is routed, His boast is turned to gloom. For Christ again is free; In glorious victory He Who is strong to save Has triumphed o’er the grave.

This is a sight that gladdens; What peace it doth impart! Now nothing ever saddens The joy within my heart. No gloom shall ever shake, No foe shall ever take, The hope which God’s own Son In love for me hath won.

Now hell, its prince, the devil Of all their powers are shorn; Now I am safe from evil, And sin I laugh to scorn. Grim Death with all his might Cannot my soul affright; He is a powerless form, Howe’er he rave and storm.

The world against me rageth Its fury I disdain; Though bitter war it wageth Its work is all in vain. My heart from care is free, No trouble troubles me. Misfortune now is play And night is bright as day.

Now I will cling forever To Christ, my Savior true; My Lord will leave me never, Whate’er He passeth through. He rends Death’s iron chain, He breaks through sin and pain, He shatters hell’s dark thrall, I follow Him through all.

To halls of heavenly splendour With Him I penetrate; And trouble ne’er may hinder Nor make me hesitate. Let tempests rage at will, My Savior shields me still; He grants abiding peace And bids all tumult cease.

He brings me to the portal That leads to bliss untold, Whereon this rhyme immortal Is found in script of gold: “Who there My cross hath shared Finds here a crown prepared; Who there with Me hath died Shall here be glorified.” (Paul Gerhard  1607-1676 tr John Kelly 1833-1890)

This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Saturday after the eleventh Sunday after the high holiday and festival of the Holy Trinity. It is found on Pg. 298 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu!   (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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