************ Sermon on Luke 22:53b ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 10, 2002
"When Darkness Reigns"
Our country has seen so many dark days. I think of the Civil War in which half a million Americans lost their life. I think of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I think of the assassination of President Kennedy. I think of the resignation of President Nixon. I think of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. We look at all of these events and we think of the words of Jesus in our text: "when darkness reigns."
A "But this is your hour – when darkness reigns." There was a time in the ministry of Christ when evil was restrained. It was held back from doing its most violent deeds. But now the power of evil has been released.
"But this is your hour – when darkness reigns." What is Jesus talking about? What does He have in mind?
We think of the Garden of Gethsemane. Remember His prayer of anguish: "Father ... take this cup from me ..." (Lk 22:42)? Remember the earnestness of His prayer: His sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground (Lk 22:44)? Remember how there is not for Him any prayer support, how the disciples kept falling asleep as He prayed (Lk 22:45)?
We think of Peter. He was scared, scared for his life, so he denied even knowing the Lord, let alone being one of His disciples (Lk 22:54-62). And Peter did this after saying he will never deny or forsake the Lord (Lk 22:33)
We think of the Sanhedrin. It was an illegal meeting of the assembly, there were trumped-up charges, witnesses lied, the death penalty did not fit the crime He was found guilty of, and after the trial He was beaten and spit upon.
We think of the crucifixion. The pain. The agony. The thirst. The three hours of darkness at midday. Being forsaken by God. The taunting of the crowds and the soldiers and even the thief on the cross.
We think of death. What can be blacker, darker, than the death of Him Who is light?
We think of burial. Imagine that: the Lord of glory put in a grave.
B "But this is your hour – when darkness reigns." We see darkness already in the story in front of us.
The events in front of us happen during darkness, when it is late at night.
We see darkness in the betrayal by Judas – a trusted friend and companion. Think of David's lament when a friend of his switches sides and supported the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam 15):
(Ps 41:9) Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.Or, think of Job's words of complaint:
(Job 19:19) All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me.Try to imagine a trusted friend and companion, someone you have shared good times and bad times with, someone you have come to depend upon and lean on. Imagine your feelings, your anger, your bitterness, the darkness, when this friend betrays your trust (Luke 22:1-6; cf vs 23).
We see darkness in the method of Judas' betrayal. The Bible tells us that Judas approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" (vs 48).
In the Ancient World a kiss is used in much the same way as we use a handshake – it is a form of greeting. Think of how Esau embraced and kissed Jacob (Gen 33:4). Think of how Joseph greeted his brothers once he made himself known to them (Gen 45:14-15). And, it is still used as a form of greeting today. For instance, most of us kiss family and friends whom we have not seen for a long time. I noticed last night that the Norwegian who won the Olympic gold in the Women's Mogul greeted her presenters with a kiss. And, I am sure you have noticed that Yassar Arafat and the leaders of Russia always greet people with a kiss.
Do you remember the story of Amasa? Amasa was asked to lead the armies of Judah and Israel in place of Joab. Joab removed his rival with a kiss. As he reached forward to kiss Amasa, Joab plunged a dagger into him (2 Sam 20). In the same way, Judas also misused a kiss. Mark's Gospel tells us that Judas used a kiss as a means of identifying Jesus in the dark so that the authorities would not arrest the wrong man. A sign of greeting was turned into a method of betrayal.
Take note, too, that Jesus identifies Himself as the "Son of Man". In the Old Testament, the phrase "Son of Man" usually is a synonym for "man" or "mankind". However, this phrase has a totally different meaning in the books of Ezekiel and Daniel. For instance, in one of his night visions, the prophet Daniel saw "one like a son of man" come on the clouds of heaven to appear before the throne of God. He was given dominion over all peoples and an everlasting kingdom (Dan 7:13-14). It is this meaning that Jesus has in mind when He calls Himself the Son of Man. By this title He claims to be God in the flesh, part of the Godhead, full of grace and glory, and having power and authority and kingdom. Think of the darkness it takes for Judas to betray the Son of Man.
We see darkness too in the violence, in the sword play, that took place. When the disciples saw what was happening they assumed that Jesus wanted them to fight. He had, after all, told them to carry swords (Lk 22:36) and they had brought two along with them (vs 28). So Peter swung his sword and struck a glancing blow against the head of the high priest's servant, slicing off his right ear. Jesus, of course, was not teaching violence. Rather, He was telling His disciples to be ready for hardship and self-sacrifice and to do battle against the forces of evil. The hour is dark when men use violence and rely on the sword.
The Jews had strict rules about who could serve in the Temple and as a priest. By cutting off the ear of the servant Peter disfigured him and rendered him unfit for priestly service. Not only that, but an attack on the servant was considered an attack on the master. Remember the time when Hanun, King of the Ammonites, seized David's men, shaved off half of each man's beard, cut off their garments in the middle at the buttocks, and sent them away (2 Sam 10)? By attacking and insulting David's men he was attacking and insulting David himself. By attacking the servant of the high priest, Peter was attacking the high priest himself – the highest official representative of God in the land. Darkness reigns when this sort of thing happens.
Finally, we see darkness when we look at the makeup of the crowd who came to arrest Jesus. The crowd included chief priests, elders, and officers of the temple guard. These were not minor officials. The conspiracy reached all the way to the top – just like Watergate included not just the men who broke into the National Headquarters of the Democratic Party, but also included the President's top advisors and even President Nixon himself!
Instead of doing their work in the light of day, they chose to arrest Jesus in the middle of the night. They used the same methods as the Gestapo and the KGB many years later – the knock at midnight, the cover of darkness, to do stuff that could not stand the light of day.
C "But this is your hour – when darkness reigns." We all have to admit that without Christ this statement applies to each and every one of us. It applies to our land. It applies to the whole wide world. It applies to the universe. You know what the Apostle John says:
(Jn 3:19-20) This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (20) Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
Darkness reigns. Not just out there. Not just in the world. Not just in prisons. Not just in dark caves of Afghanistan. Not just in terrorist training camps. Not just in the remains of the World Trade Center. Not just in casinos or strip joints or internet pornography sites. Our natural state, our sinful state, is that darkness reigns in you and me too.
A "But this is your hour – when darkness reigns."
The phrase "your hour" implies that darkness holds sway only for a while. Its time is short. Don't forget, evening and night always gives way to morning and morning light. This means that darkness does not and cannot have the final word.
When we look carefully we see glimmerings of light shining in the darkness of the garden.
As we look at our passage of Scripture we notice the three-fold rebuke of Jesus. Jesus rebukes Judas for betraying the Son of Man with a kiss. He rebukes the disciples for relying on the sword. He rebukes the crowd of leaders for their cowardice.
Does Jesus simply tell them off for the sake of telling them off? Young People say that about their parents some time. They think parents are on power trips. They think parents want to make their life miserable. That's why parents tell off their kids and ground them and have all those rules. I remind the youth that their parents act the way they do because of love and concern. In the same way, the Son of Man rebukes and reproves and admonishes out of love. He wants to give new opportunities to repent and confess. He wants people everywhere to recognize their sin and their shame and their fallenness. He wants those in the garden to recognize the darkness within so that they will come to the light.
B "But this is your hour – when darkness reigns." Darkness does not have the last word when we look at the servant of the high priest. Jesus heals the servant. Jesus restores him. Jesus makes him whole again so that he is fit for priestly service. Jesus also takes away the insult to the high priest. He brings peace where there was sword and conflict. By healing the man Jesus shows that He does not rely on the sword, and that His Kingdom is not based on force. Rather, it is based on love and sacrifice and servanthood.
C "But this is your hour – when darkness reigns." The message of the Bible is that Jesus delivers us from the power of darkness. I love the way the Apostle Paul puts this:
(Col 1:13-14) ... he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, (14) in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.By being under the power of darkness – for a while – Jesus has transferred us from the dominion of darkness to the Kingdom of Light. He heals us and makes us whole in the same way as He healed and made whole the servant of the high priest.
III God's Plan
A "But this is your hour – when darkness reigns."
Darkness rules for an hour. But only for an hour. Darkness holds sway only for a while. Its time is short.
Why? What limits the darkness and the powers of darkness?
It is God Who allows the forces of darkness to attack. It is God Who, in accordance with His eternal plan, has given them the present hour. It is all according to the plan. It is all under God's providence. The God Who determines the boundaries of the sea (Job 38:8-11), Who gives orders to the morning and shows the dawn its place (Job 38:12-13), Who determines the abode of light and the residence of darkness (Job 38:19) – it is this God Who gives the darkness its hour. But only an hour.
B "But this is your hour – when darkness reigns."
There was a time in the ministry of Christ that evil was restrained. It was held back from doing its violent deeds. In the garden and at the cross the power of evil was released – but only for an hour. How comforting to know that Satan and evil and darkness are again held back. How comforting to know that the almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing God is in control no matter what happens. How comforting to know that God says to Satan and the forces of evil, "This far you may come and no farther" (Job 38:11). Imagine how much worse life would be if He did not do this.
"But this is your hour – when darkness reigns."
Thank God, I say. Thank God that Jesus put Himself under darkness. Thank God that was part of God's plan. For the result is that you and I who believe are now children of light.
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