“And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. 48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? 49 When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? 50 And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. 51 And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? 53 When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness”
(Luke 22: 47-53).
The Jewish religious leaders had often falsely accused Christ and sought to destroy Him but they were not able to touch Him. The reason was that “his hour was not yet come”: “Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come” (Jn 7: 30).
However, in the passage above, the time had now come for the Saviour to fulfil His mission of redemption. It was time for the Son of God to suffer at the hands of sinful men, to be humiliated, scourged and ultimately be crucified upon the cruel cross. God had lifted up his restraining hand: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2: 23).
To His enemies – “the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders” – who came with the Roman soldiers to arrest Him, Jesus had these words of reproach: “Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Lk 22: 52-53).
What did Jesus mean by these words? He meant that the time had now come when His enemies were permitted to give full rein to their malice and hatred against Him, which they could not do before, because of God’s restraining hand. “So perfectly are ye under His control that neither you nor the prince of darkness can proceed a hair’s breadth against Me but through His permission” (Adam Clarke).
“But this is your hour”
The time was now come for the greatest betrayal in history – of the Master by His disciple, Judas Iscariot: “But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Lk 22: 48). Our Lord had the power to deliver Himself from His enemies and to smite them completely. But He would not because “the hour … is now come” (Jn 16: 32) for Him to fulfil the Father’s will for the salvation of sinful men.
“But this is your hour.” God had removed His restraining hand to let His enemies do as they wished to His Son –“being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2: 23). The hostile mob, led by Judas, His treacherous disciple, arrested Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and delivered Him into the hands of those who hated Him. It was a moment of triumph for Jesus’ enemies. Finally, they were able to lay hands on Him and to fulfil their wicked plan of destroying Him by putting Him to death.
What a comfort for us to know that neither men nor demons can act against us without God’s permission, and that He will not allow us to be tried above what we are able to bear (I Cor 10: 13).
“and the power of darkness”
Christ’s enemies chose the dark night to execute their wicked designs upon Him. “The serpent himself is now come in Judas; and the seed of the serpent was that rout that came with him, to whom it was fatal to bruise the heel of the Messiah; and now was the hour for that wickedness. It was anciently foretold and predetermined, both as to the thing itself and the instruments; and now all fences lie open, and you may do what you please. The chains of the devil himself are now loosed; and it is permitted to him, without the least check or restraint of Divine Providence, to exert all his furies at pleasure; for now is the power of darkness” (John Lightfoot).
In God’s sovereign will, the power of darkness was allowed to triumph over the Lord but only for a season. “Satan, the ruler of the darkness of this world, is permitted to do his worst, to bruise the heel of the seed of the woman (Gen 3: 15)” (Matthew Henry).
Though Christ’s enemies conspired against Him and ultimately crucified Him, they could not thwart God’s plan of salvation. By His death on the cross, Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Son, obtained eternal redemption for His elect: “… but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb 9: 12).
We thank God for our glorious Saviour Who went all the way to the cross for our sakes. What an Example He set for us in His determination to obey God, even to submit Himself to man’s will at the time pre-determined by God the Father so that He could redeem us from our sins. May we resolve to love and serve our Saviour who first loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal 2: 20).