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God’s Word for You

Luke 22:52-53 the authority of darkness

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, April 15, 2019

52 Then Jesus said to those who had come out against him (chief priests, captains of the temple guard, and elders), “Have you come out against me with swords and clubs, as if I am leading a rebellion? 53 I was with you every day in the temple and you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the authority of darkness.”

The group that came to arrest Jesus is described as “a crowd” by Mark. John is the only writer who mentions that there were some soldiers present, but his word, speira (σπεῖρα, John 18:3) can mean any detachment of soldiers from a cohort (600 men) to a squad of a dozen or so. The Romans would not have sent very many to arrest an unarmed Rabbi in an olive grove just two hundred yards from the city gate.

They were accompanied by quite a few civilians from various walks of life. The description more or less is this: A large crowd (Matthew 27:47) armed with swords and clubs (Mark 14:43) was guided by Judas leading a detachment of Roman soldiers carrying lanterns, torches and weapons (John 18:3). There were officials present who were from the chief priests and Pharisees, and (Luke tells us here) some of the chief priests themselves were there, along with captains of the temple guard (with their own private police) and some of the elders of the Jews. In the little grove of trees, it was suddenly pretty crowded. If each of the separate groups involved consisted of ten or a dozen men, then there may have been more than seventy men there. A “large crowd” (as Matthew remembered it) indeed.

Jesus’ reaction was not to protest being arrested, but the way in which he was arrested. They hadn’t needed all this. “I was with you every day in the temple,” he said. Their cowardice had motivated this deed. They were afraid of the crowds, and afraid that their charges were false. They went to grab Jesus in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness, and Jesus said, “This is your hour, and the authority of darkness.”

“This is your hour” is Jesus’ proclamation that it was time for him to be arrested, while the festival was still underway, so that he would be put to death on the Passover, as he had always planned. The priests had tried to avoid this, and could have avoided it, but in their blind fury they let sin rule them. This leads us to the second part of Jesus’ words:

“And the authority of darkness.” These nouns, authority (exousia, ἐξουσία) and darkness (skotous, σκότους), are a clause without any verb, which means that this is a declaration of some kind. But since “darkness” is a description (genitive case) and “authority” is the subject (nominative case), together they are “the authority of darkness” rather than “the authority is darkness” or “and darkness is the authority.” The clause is set in apposition to the previous one, “This is your hour.” The whole sentence is saying: “This is your hour—yours, and the authority who rules over darkness.” It was Satan’s hour. He had seemed to have won. He had stopped Jesus from doing whatever Jesus was planning to do, or so he thought. In the devil’s own blind rage and terror of God, he had seen the moment coming. He knew the time was getting closer and closer—but what was Jesus about to do? Unable to grasp God’s plan, he had chosen his one great tool to rid the world (he hoped) of God’s Son: death.

God, however, works out his plan even though the devil rages against him and even though we, his servants, keep stumbling and falling into the devil’s traps. God sees them, and he works through us and even despite us. “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). Also, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

The Lord put out his hands to be bound with ropes. His actions spoke: “Arrest me, Satan. Beat me, spit on me, whip me, crucify me; kill me. This is my Father’s will.” Here was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “By oppression and judgment he was taken away, and who can speak of his descendants?” (Isaiah 53:8).

And Jeremiah said: “My sins have been bound into a yoke; by his hands they were woven together. They have come upon my neck and the Lord has sapped my strength. He has handed me over to those I cannot withstand. The Lord has rejected all the warriors in my midst; he has summoned an army against me to crush my young men. In his winepress the Lord has trampled the Virgin Daughter of Judah. This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. My children are destitute because the enemy has prevailed. Zion stretches out her hands, but there is no one to comfort her. The LORD has decreed for Jacob that his neighbors become his foes; Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them” (Lamentations 1:14-17). Those words, sung about the captivity of Judah, are equally fitting for the captivity of Christ among his enemies.

In the prophets, there are statements like this from Joel: “The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond numbers, and mighty are those who obey his command” (Joel 2:11). Certainly, this kind of passage (see also Isaiah 13:4; 1 Chronicles 12:22) led the apostles of Jesus to wonder about the nature of his kingdom. If his own disciples didn’t quite understand, it should not surprise us that the Prince of Darkness was also looking for another kind of kingdom. But the army of Christ is the army of angels who drove Satan from heaven long ago (Isaiah 14:12). The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world. By the grace of God, Jesus brought you gently into his kingdom with baptism and the gospel of forgiveness. This is the kingdom into which he invites all.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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