The Heart of Darkness
Which of these best describe you?
- Day person or night person.
- Words or action.
- Follower or leader.
Jesus and his disciples have been in Jerusalem for the better half of a week, preaching every day at the temple and retiring in the evening to the Mount of Olives. Jesus shared the Passover meal with them where he spoke about greatness in the kingdom of God is about serving. He told them that one of them would betray him and that all of them would be put to the test as Satan sifts them as wheat. Jesus had instructed them to expect less handouts from people from now on but to equip themselves with money, clothing and swords. When the disciples took his instructions literally, he terminated the conversation.
After the meal, they followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives where Jesus instructed them all to pray that they would not fall into temptation. He prayed earnestly through anguish to the Father who did not decide to take the cup away from Jesus but sent an angel to strengthen him. While Jesus was praying this, the disciples, in their sorrow, fell asleep. He woke them to tell them again, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Read Luke 22:47-65
47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”
54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
63 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 And they said many other insulting things to him.
What did you see?
- Leaders and followers (47-53)
- Peter tested (54-62)
- The torment begins (63-65)
Leaders and followers (47-53)
“While he was still speaking…” The final words were of Jesus to the disciples, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The story that unfolds now takes us through the beginnings of the temptation for all especially of Peter. The reason for their prayer was right at the door.
“…a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them.” The theme of leading and following is strong in this section (Verses 47-53 especially) as we’ll see as we move through the passage. Luke establishes clearly that Judas was one of the twelve but is now leading a crowd. Greater than twelve perhaps? The crowd contained chief priests and officers of the temple guard and elders (Verse 52) and they were all following Judas. Who else was in the crowd? They would probably make up some of the folk who sat around the fire in the next section who challenged Peter.
“He approached Jesus to kiss him…betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Note the physical closeness to this betrayal. The way that Jesus is betrayed is emphasised. Is this just trivial or poetic that the betrayer appears to be friends with Jesus? One who is close to him will lead the rebellion? The hypocrisy of this act is perhaps what we ought to note. Although Judas was one of the Twelve, his kiss is nothing like the emotional weeping of the woman who dried Jesus’ feet with her hair. He was physically close to Jesus but he was not really connected to him. Jesus was not his Lord. Although Judas was stabbing Jesus in the back, he did it from the front and with the intimacy of a kiss. Luke does not actually tell us that the kiss happened but Matthew 26:49 and Mark 14:45 tell us that he did.
“When Jesus’ followers saw…” Please note again the theme of leading and following in this passage. The disciples who had followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives (22:39), saw the crowd with Judas at the front. We now have a face off. Jesus and the Twelve-minus-one facing up against Judas and a crowd of Temple leaders. In one corner is the carpenter’s son who has been preaching about the kingdom of God for 3 years all over Israel. In the opposite corner is the established leaders of Israel.
“…Lord, should we strike with our swords?” The game is on and the disciples’ are still backing Jesus. They had their two swords that they showed him back at the table of the Passover and the sight of the crowd was not enough to set them running. They were ready to follow Jesus into battle.
“But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And touched the man’s ear and healed him.” This response fits neatly with his earlier exclamation, “That’s enough!” in Verse 38. His disciples were not selected and called to be his army but they were chosen to be his messengers who would testify to the world about Him. He is not leading a rebellion (Verse 52). Judas came and touched Jesus gently with a kiss – a loving gesture with evil intent. Jesus touches his enemy with a healing hand.
“Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him…” Luke lists the types of people who made up the crowd that was lead by Judas and their mission was to come for Jesus. These leaders had been afraid of “the people” so that they needed to capture Jesus secretly by night (Luke 20:19; 21:38; 22:6). Their secret and evil actions are highlighted by what Jesus says next.
“…Am I leading a rebellion…? Everyday I was with you in the temple courts….But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.” Jesus’ whole response is like a parent telling a child how wrong they are by simply pointing out the facts. Jesus’ ministry has been all about speaking the truth. Not about uprisings or back stabbing. Not about weapons or pushes for power. His ministry has been all about words full of truth about the kingdom of God. Even now, as he confronts this mob, his response is not physical but to speak the truth. Jesus has not been hiding in caves but has been operating in plain sight. This mob has waited for the very hour when all the peaceful folk are asleep in their beds to come to Jesus with evil intent. They want him dead.
“…when darkness reigns.” The imagery of light and dark in the bible is a common tool to distinguish secret work with sinister intent versus truth and righteousness. This whole section of Verses 47-53 has contrasted two opposing groups. One, a small band of men following Jesus who is and has been teaching truth in the daylight, without weapons except for the words that he uses and the wonders that attest to his words being from God. The other side a crowd of distinguished men bent on ruining their opponent. They came by night, organised and lead by a traitor. Their apparent acts of kindness, a kiss, are really betrayal. Jesus approach is truth and healing.
The theme of leading and following continues in the next section as we watch who Peter chooses to stand beside.
Peter tested (54-62)
“Then seizing him, they led him…” The brutal treatment of Jesus begins. The One who can calm storms and raise the dead to life allows his enemies to take him away. Would we ever be so humble as Jesus?
“…to the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.” Luke mentions the location of this scene but the focus is not yet on Jesus and the high priest. Luke does not record any future interactions between Jesus and the high priest. It might be worth that the following event takes place with our Great High Priest, Jesus, standing in the courtyard of the Jewish high priest and Peter being grilled over whether he is with Jesus or not. The focus of this story is now on Peter. As Jesus is lead away, the camera looks beyond Jesus’ shoulder and we see Peter lurking behind. He is not following Jesus as such but the whole crowd. The question is, what will Peter do? What is he following for? Perhaps he doesn’t even know.
“And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.” These people who had kindled the fire consisted of the very crowd members who had come by night to seize Jesus. They are not friendlies. But Peter sat down with them. By his physical position, he has put himself on the fence. We empathise with him because this event is brand new to him. He and the other disciples have had this event veiled from their understanding (Luke 9:45). Where else should he stand on a cold night? He is physically “with them” and we want to know is he still “with” Jesus.
“A servant girl saw him…and said, “This man was with him.” In the darkness, the spotlight is shone onto Peter. The questions and answers that follow progress like a slow motion train wreck. “I don’t know him”… “I am not [one of them]!”… “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” These questions and answers were delivered over the course of the night and not consecutively like machine gun fire. His questioning came from servants and others who were not permitted or required to come to the high priests house. I’m reminded of my old “peer group pressure” seminars in high school and wish Peter could have brought those to mind too. Let’s remember though, that this is the beginning of Satan’s plans to sift Peter and the others like wheat. The attacks we receive from the enemy often come in small scale moments when we do not feel brave enough to say, “I am with Jesus.”
“Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. The Peter remembered…and he went outside and wept bitterly.” See Luke 22:34. That moment when you feel like the worst disciple Jesus has ever known. Peter’s response to his own sin is a right one. It is easy to place ourselves in Peter’s place. But all disciples of Jesus have a great and merciful Saviour! Can you put yourself in Jesus’ shoes? To know that this event would happen, to have warned Peter that it will happen and to instruct him to pray that he can not fall into temptation and to watch Peter fail just as He know that Peter would. This is an image of our relationship with Jesus. He knows our temptations. He instructs us to pray. He teaches us to be children of the light, not of the darkness and yet we fail him. Jesus is indeed THE Righteous One. There is no other than Him. We can only say that we have been saved through grace alone and no merit of our own. We should weep over our unfaithfulness. We should remember the grace of God and His Son who knows us and sees us and is praying for us (Luke 22:32; John 17:20-26). Note, when he went “outside” this must refer to outside the courtyard.
We have just witnessed a quick turnaround prophecy about Peter. Jesus foreknew that Peter would deny knowing Jesus three times on that very night and this unfolds before us just as Jesus predicted. As Peter looks into the eyes of Jesus in Verse 61 he is seeing a great prophet who has proven himself.
The torment begins (63-65)
“The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him…” These verses come as an abrupt end to the episode about Peter. Verse 52 comes to mind again as we see the way Jesus is treated. There is nothing difficult about the words and their meaning but we need to note the significance of fulfilled prophecy.
Now, as Luke describes ever so briefly the mocking and the beating and “many other insulting things”, the one mocking phrase described is his ability to prophesy. See Luke 18:32-33; 9:22. See also Isaiah 50:6 and 53:3). What Jesus had foretold, what the prophets had written about, was now beginning to be dealt out on Jesus.
In this whole passage of following and leading, it is the One who foreknew the outcome of that night and humbly submitted to the treachery around him who is really in control and far ahead of all of them. Disciples of Jesus will do well to trust the long term plans of our Lord and not be swayed or tempted by the short term view of the evils of this world.
What did we learn?
The Lord Jesus Christ leads a kingdom that speaks the truth in the daylight. He is a public figure with so much information about him accessible to all. Yet this world would rather mock him and those who side with him than repent and stand with him. This is a passage about choosing who we stand with. The kingdom of God is not about strength as this world knows it. It is about truth and trusting in the One who will go to the cross for you.
Topic A: Children of the light. The contrast in this passage between those who think and do evil versus those (or just Jesus) who pursue righteousness. If we speak the truth in love then we have nothing to hide. We are called to live as children of the light and not of the darkness. When we are tempted to do things in secret, that is our conscience telling us that we are working against the Lord and his desire for us to mature. Read how Paul uses the contrast of dark and light, night and day to instruct us to live as children of the light in Romans 13:11-14. See also, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5-14.
Topic B: “I am with Jesus.” It is such an easy sentence to speak but can be so difficult when the time is right to say it. “I am with Jesus” can be said in other ways too. “I am a Christian… I go to church because… What do you think about Jesus?… I can pray for you about that, would that be ok with you?” What other ways can you think of to align yourself publically with Jesus?
Topic C: Weeping like Peter. It is the nature of the proud person to attempt to justify their behaviour. It is the nature of a disciple to weep and repent over their sin. Jesus is Lord because he just is, but he is also worthy to be Lord because he is righteous. He calls people because he is merciful and kind, not because we are worthy. It is by grace that you have been saved through faith and not by works so that none of us can or should boast. Let’s embrace the opportunity to repent and grieve over our failure to follow him.