While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”
This is, indeed, the hour of darkness. The royal time where evil is hemmed in and the Kingdom of God breaks into ordinary affairs and has free reign is over. The devil who has been waiting for a more opportune time since failing to seduce Jesus in the wilderness is now back on the scene, and the clash between the prince of this world and the prince of heaven has begun.
This is, indeed, the hour of darkness. And the fruits of that darkness are readily apparent. The intimate fellowship and trust that encircled Jesus and his disciples is broken, and one of them, Judas, driven by disappointment or insecurity or who knows what now betrays his Lord with a kiss. Others, frightened, lose confidence in the one who fed multitudes, cured the ill, and stilled the wind and sea and so turn to violence. And those entrusted with offices to care for the people are driven by fear and jealousy to prosecute an innocent man.
Betrayal, violence, false accusation. Are not these the marks of the hour of darkness at all times and places? Since the beginning of the creation the Tempter has worked to sow seeds of distrust, to play upon our insecurity, and to manipulate our fear that we might stoop to such means. And we see that strategy and outcome played out dramatically and tragically in this scene.
But we also see something else. Against all of those things Jesus stands with love, courage, and compassion – staying the violence of his companions, healing those in need, and submitting to the unjust rule of others that he might face his destiny undeterred.
Yes, the hour of darkness is at hand. But, as we’ll see, love, courage, and compassion will beat betrayal, violence, and false accusation every time. It isn’t pretty – the cost of redemption never is – but love will prevail.
Prayer: God of peace, you have armed us with love to oppose violence, with courage to face fear, and with compassion to respond to false accusation. Grant us the faith to believe that that is enough. In Jesus’ name, Amen.