November 19, 2017
The Hour Of Evil
Luke 22:39-53 by Warwick Lyne
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Series: Luke's Gospel

The Hour of Evil

Luke 22:39-53

We have in these verses a portrait of the Lord Jesus.

Throughout his gospel Luke has given us a number of pictures of Jesus: in ch4 Jesus as a Rabbi, he teaches and everyone is amazed; in ch8 Jesus standing on the deck of the boat, the master of the winds and the waves; in ch18 Jesus the friend of children, taking little ones on his knee; in ch19 Jesus with his biceps for all to see, cleansing out the temple.

Those are just some of the portraits we have of Jesus, and of course you could add many more, but none of them, or all of them combined, come close to the striking impact of the portrait we have here. What we have here is a portrait of a distressed Jesus. We are about to see, this week and next week, that he was deserted by his followers, disowned and despised. In this little section we find him, in the words of Mark’s gospel, deeply distressed and troubled.  He was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.

I do not know if you have ever been there.  I know I have not, but what we are told by Luke is that Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, was there.

He is here, in a familiar setting, the Mount of Olives, they had been there before, camping out with his disciples, only 11 of them now, Judas has popped out.  They are sleeping under the stars, talking together as they drift off to sleep, once again he goes off to a familiar place to pray.  Aware that Judas would know where he was, there were no secrets, no hiding, no slipping through the crowd, that part was over, and now, here, he is engulfed by the thought of all that was going to happen. Suddenly, everything that is before him comes into his human psychology and grips him with immense passion. We know that because we’re about to find him sweating profusely.

Jesus, confronted now with the imminent prospect of his ordeal, how is he going to face it? How would you have face it? I cannot even get right the small things God asks of me, let alone something like that which  Jesus is about to go through.

How does Jesus go when the heat is on? Things have been simmering for some time now, but now the pot has come to the boil.  How is Jesus going to go? What we see here is not a Jesus who capitulates at the end and gives up; not a Jesus who loses control and lashes out; not a Jesus who compromises and caves in. What we see is a Jesus who, under the most immense pressure, show compassion, commitment, and in stark contrast to everyone else.

It would have been understandable had he left the 11 on their own.  Had he said to them, “I’ve given my best to you, I’ve preached my sermons, I’ve done my miracles, I’ve lived with you now for the last three years, I’ve loved you, but as of now I’m focussed on my own predicament therefore you’re own your own”, but if you look you’ll see the picture is very different from that. He is making their concerns his own. Although he was about to injure all of this suffering, his concern was still for his followers.

“I want you to watch and pray,” he says. It would have been understandable if he had have said in v40, “Please pray for me.”  But he doesn’t.  he says, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

 

What kind of temptation may be before them? Well, all kinds but perhaps these areas mainly. Tempted to doubt him, after all, he had said these remarkable things and it had appeared to be going dreadfully wrong. Tempted to disown him. Tempted perhaps to deny they ever knew him. Jesus says, ‘now fellas I want you to pray so that you don’t fall into temptation.’

Are you ever tempted to doubt him?  When the heat is on?  Tempted to disown or deny?

When you’re the only one in your workplace who believes?  When you’re the only one in your sporting team?

The only one in your group, where if you stood up and talked about Jesus everybody else would  Oh, people say “Jesus Christ” but only when they hit the ball into the net, or hit their thumb with a hammer, or get hit with somebody else’s mistake at work. In light of everything Jesus is about to walk through, he takes time to say, ‘fellas, I want to remind you, encourage you to pray so you won’t fall into temptation.’ What compassion.  When things even slightly go not according to my plan, my thoughts are all inward looking.  But just when a bit of self-interest, a bit of ‘me time’ was justifiable, Jesus’ concern is still for others. He then withdraws from them about a stone’s throw, kneels down and practices what he preaches.

Do you kneel down sometimes when you pray?  It’s an expression of urgency, of necessity.

His prayer is in v42, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. We see him here, in his humanity, recoiling at what is to come.

There is  something really wrong with a person if they do not recoil from pain. When you touch a hot plate, you recoil.  When you are  lying on the ground and a child is about to jump on you, you flinch. If you see someone walk into a fire, you say there is  something wrong with that guy.  Either they are blind or they are blind drunk. When the nurse brings out the hypodermic needle, the blood pressure goes through the roof, in a normal person.

What was ahead for Jesus? There was the thought of physical pain.  Crucifixion is inhumane. Probably the most brutal, cruel and unnatural punishment known to man. There was the social dimension.  An embarrassment to his family, betrayed by one of his own, deserted by the rest.  No one to stand by his bed and hold his hand, no friendly face to encourage him, and most significantly the spiritual reality, bearing the weight and absorbing the wrath of every sin of every one of his children.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.”

He would not be human if he didn’t flinch.

“Nevertheless…”  “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he teaches his disciples how to pray and one of the things he says to pray to his Father is “your will be done” , and we might think, Easy for you to say Jesus.  You will never have to pray that. No it was not easy  and yes he did pray those words.  It has  been harder for no-one than Jesus to say “your will be done”, but here he is saying it.

In the distress of everything that was going on, the distress that was so great that even after an angel had strengthened him, v43, v44 he is still in agony and prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.

In the distress of everything that was going on, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Where everybody else denies, deserts, disowns (and those are just the good guys), Jesus alone remains faithful, he alone maintains unwavering commitment. No one even comes close to being like him.  No one.  Not you, not I. The disciples?  They’re a lost cause.  They can’t even follow a simple instruction.

V45, And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping?

“Huh, what?  No, no, we’re not sleeping.  Just praying with our eyes shut.” Three times, we are  told in the other gospels, that Jesus came back and found them sleeping.

“Why are you sleeping?” he asks them.

It is a good question. “I didn’t tell you to stay here and sleep.  I said stay here and pray.  What part of that was hard to understand?  So I said, stay and pray, and you stayed and slept.  Why are you doing that?”

“I’m done with you guys.  You’re out.  One of you has already gone.  The rest of you are hopeless.  Really, I’m tired of you.  I’ve done my best for you.  I’ve preached my best sermons.  I’ve done terrific miracles.  We’ve had a fantastic time.  I’ve given you everything I could give you.”

“I now give you one word of counsel.  I want you to pray.  I go away, I come back, you’re sound asleep.  I’m done.”

That would have been a perfectly legitimate thing to say, but that is not what he says. Did they make a mistake, did they get it wrong?  Yes, because of his compassion and because of his commitment, failure with Jesus is never final and it is never fatal.

So he says to them, in v46, “Let’s try it again.  We’re going to run the show again.  Rise and pray.”

Jesus is the Lord of second chances, and third chances, and fourth, fifth…

I imagine he would have kept coming back, ‘let’s try it again, let’s try it again’ because he does with us.  How many times have you failed Jesus but he has  remained faithful to you?

He would have  just kept coming back. 

In  v47.

“While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them.”

This treachery is famous throughout the world.  People who only know a little bit about the Bible will probably know the name “Judas”.  They may refer to a friend who has backstabbed them, or a sporting star who has left their club to join their archrivals while still under contract, or any number of individuals in Australian politics as “Judas”. Well it comes from here in the Bible.  And it is the recounting of the fact that Judas comes into the darkness of this garden scene, ready to give the predetermined signal to the accompanying crowd as to who Jesus was.

He does not come in waving a flag above his head.  He says, ‘what I’ll do is just give the customary greeting, and when you see that you’ll know who to go for. ’Then he approaches Jesus to kiss him, Jesus then asks him this question, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ There is compassion in the question.  He is reminding Judas of exactly what he is doing.  This is more than just betraying a friend.  He is betraying the Christ, God’s Messiah.  He is about to betray the only one who can grant him forgiveness for his sins, eternity and hope in this life. His question might be in part an appeal.  Are you going to betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

Now, some of you might be thinking, why does there need to a sign at all?  Surely Jesus is famous by this time?  He has  been teaching and healing.  Crowds have been gathering.  Surely they know who he is?

Well, the answer to that is fairly straightforward.  If you think about the last time you were at a bonfire, and you went away to get something to drink and you came back to the group and you stood next to the person you thought was your wife only to discover you were standing next to someone else’s wife, and the reason you did so was because in the darkness you made a mistake.

This was obviously an equally attractive person, otherwise you would not have approached her as you did, but it is obvious, now, I am here talking to the wrong person.  And the lady says, ‘excuse me?’  And you say, ‘I’m dreadfully sorry, in the darkness I took you to be someone else.’

We have all been there.

In the same way, Jesus was part of a group, how were they going to identify him unless someone went up and made it obvious, and Judas’ actions were much more than a spur of the moment decision to betray Jesus.

Vv3-6 tell us that this was a deliberate, conscious, premeditated, thought out plan.

This dramatic moment of betrayal did not appear from nowhere – it never does.  There was a journey in the life of Judas that took him from being the treasurer to the traitor. Why did he do this? It probably had something to do with money, jealousy, self-protection, but ultimately because this was the hour of evil. A dreadful betrayal.  Which then turns into a dreadful comedy.

You know those strange times in life where you are supposed to burst into tears and you start laughing or vice versa, and you can only explain it in terms of the nervous energy that is created in you when you do not really know how to respond or deal with a certain situation.

Now look at this question.  This is a farce right here in v49.  When Jesus’ disciples saw what would follow (they’re not bozos idiotic and lacking intelligence),, they were able to put 2 and 2 together, they saw Judas leading this crowd with swords and clubs, they remembered Jesus’ words about someone betraying him), when they realised their master was about to be taken from them, they respond like bozos.

I do not think it’s a harsh judgment to say that what we have here is a complete shambles.   Just when they’re getting a committee together to discuss the potential use of force, Jesus we were just wondering if perhaps we should…

What are you doing?  Oh, for goodness sake, look at the man’s ear.  Hang on Jesus…

This is the A-team.  Hand-picked.  Ready for anything. What a shambles.  Ears lying on the ground.  Questions flying in the air.  A haphazard attempt at armed resistance. Are they fighting or are they not fighting?  What are they doing?  Swords here, ears there, questions there, shambles everywhere. We might imagine Jesus saying to them, “Listen, we had the sword conversation only a few minutes ago in v38.  You got the preposition wrong.  I told you cut it out.  I didn’t tell you cut it off.  No more of this!”

I am so encouraged by this.  I hope you are too. Of course those whose Christian lives are so watertight and tidy, who never fumble or falter, you do not need to worry about it.  But for the rest of us, this is not an example, but we do identify with it, and their shambles is about to give way to shuffling departure.

“We’re ready to follow you anywhere Jesus.  Excuse us, we’ll get back to you.”  What an embarrassment. We have here the disciples in all their ugliness and shambolic stupidity and dreadful tragic comedy.

In contrast, notice the masterful serenity we find in Jesus. His followers are confused, but he is composed.  In spite of all appearances to the contrary, Jesus is as much master of this event as he was master over the winds and the waves in Luke 8.

This crowd has shown up.  What do they think they are doing?  Why have they appeared en masse, and why have they come under the cover of darkness, and why in the world have they shown up with all these swords and clubs? What possessed them to appear in this way?

Were they afraid?  It’s possible. Did they think they might intimidate Jesus?  When you read John’s account you find they were completely ineffective if that was their desire.  In fact they were intimidated by him, and fell over when he said “here I am”. So Jesus is there apparently the victim, apparently the captive, but in a deeper sense the one in charge of the situation.

His question is essentially this, he looks at the crowd and he says ‘do you really have to show up after dark with this unnecessary display of force?  Every day in the temple, of course, I was teaching and you could have arrested me there’, but, of course he knew the answer to his question.  Their arrest was illegitimate.  And that is why they needed to come under the cover of darkness.

And so he says to them, ‘this is your hour.  I recognise that.  This is according to the plan of God.  This is the time when darkness looks powerful.’

And if you scan v37, you’ll see that Jesus knew what had to happen and that now it was reaching its fulfilment.

Confusion among the disciples.  Corruption among the Judas crowd.  And compassion on the part of Jesus. A compassion that is there in the restoration of the high priest’s servant’s ear.  A compassion that is there as he essentially appeals to the conscience of these individuals who come in the crowd. He is saying to them, ‘I know that many of you are acting on orders but how many of you are acting out of conviction?  I know you’re here with the party line,’ he says, ‘but is that really the conviction of your heart?’

There is no one like him.  Not even close.

What then are the disciples of Jesus to do?  When the heat is on what are we, the followers of Jesus, to do? In the light of the legalisation of same-sex marriage perhaps the heat will be on in ways it has not in many, many years.

Go ahead and put up a silly fight and chop a few ears off? We could run away under the cover of darkness. No.  What was it that the disciples could not get? The disciples could not grapple with the notion that the arrest and the crucifixion of Jesus could possibly be in the plan of God.

“How can there be victory out of such defeat?”  That is what they were saying.

Surely it is understandable, and here we are today.  If we find ourselves saying the same thing, then we will be tempted to the same confusion, the same silly fighting or the same dreadful flight. If we recognise that in and through it all, God is fulfilling his plan, keeping his promises and saving his people, then we may put our heads on our pillow at night knowing that one day, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Remember that this Jesus has been there when the heat has been the hottest. Though the heat may feel on where you are, Jesus has been hotter.  He went where there was more at stake, and the pressure was greater.  Our God is not some serene figure on the stained glass window, or the god who is sitting watching from a distance.  He is a God who knows, and feels, who has been overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  In our pressure and temptation, he invites us to mingle our prayers with his prayers, and our tears with his tears.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

May we rest in the Lord Jesus.  Even though this world is filled with many evils, may we not panic or try to fight in inappropriate ways, or run away.  But remember that Jesus remains victorious.  We pray that we will not be smug with this information but that as he showed compassion, may we too show compassion to those around us.  And we ask that you give us grace to help us in our time of need.

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