This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- This Week’s Sermon

This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The Hour Of The Power Of Darkness

by Jeff Strite

Luke 22:39-22:54

One woman told about her favorite spot at the local zoo. It was an exhibit called the House of Night. It was a place where you could see creatures of the night that would crawl and fly about, but because it held creatures of the night… it was nearly totally dark.  She said that one very bright day, she stepped into the exhibit and (of course) was instantly plunged into total darkness. Almost immediately (she said) “a small hand grabbed mine.”

Smiling, she asked “And who do you belong to?”  A little boy, in a very quiet voice said: “I’m yours… till the lights come on.”

There are a lot of people who have trouble with the dark. Children especially are notorious for that kind of fear, but adults can struggle with it as well.

A friend of mine went thru a very difficult divorce and she ended up living in an upstairs apartment in the middle of town. She was very lonely and for the first 6 months she had difficulty sleeping because she was afraid of the dark. Even months afterward, the only way she could get to sleep was if she had a night light on.

People OFTEN fear the dark.  The dark is a filled with the “unknown”, and with anxiety and uncertainty.

Scientists have even found that if a person spends too much time in the dark can suffer with a condition they call SAD syndrome. That’s an appropriate acronym because those who suffer from it often become moody and depressed. SAD is an acronym for “seasonal affective disorder” because it often happens in winter.

Now in our text this morning, Jesus is addressing those who’ve come to arrest Him:  “… this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Luke 22:53

There is a power in darkness.   The power of uncertainty, and anxiety and fear.  And during those times of darkness we may be trapped in something we can’t control.

This morning’s text is a case study in the power of darkness and the feeling of helplessness it can bring. Even Jesus is caught up in it. Luke 22:42-44 tells us that Jesus prayed:  “‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

In just a few hours,

• Jesus is going to be put on trial … not once, not twice, but 6 different times.
• Pilate going to order Him to be taken away and beaten by Roman soldiers.
• Then Jesus will be forced to carry a heavy cross through the city and all the way up the hill to the crucifixion place on Calvary.
• Then He’ll be nailed to that cross, and the cross will be lifted up and dropped into position.
• And Jesus will hang by those nails for 6 long hours.
• And ultimately… He’ll die there.

It’s little wonder Jesus was in anguish as He prayed.  It’s little wonder Jesus prayed “If there is ANY WAY for this cup to be taken from me…let’s do it!”  It’s little wonder that when He prayed, His sweat was like drops of blood.

There’s a relatively rare medical condition where people literally “sweat” blood.  It’s called “hematohidrosis.” Your sweat glands are surrounded by numerous blood vessels, and when a person undergoes intense stress those blood vessels dilate to the point of rupturing. Then blood goes into the sweat glands and comes out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat.

Now, my point is this:  Jesus was facing a time of crisis. An hour of darkness.  And it’s a situation that EVEN He – the Son of God – cannot change.  It is a situation that has affected not just Him, but also those closest to Him.

How He faced that that crisis, and how He deals with that darkness He couldn’t change tells us a lot about how we can deal with our own personal times of darkness. And as I studied this passage, I found 3 basic principles for how we can face situations we don’t seem to be able to stop or change.

The first principle is found in Luke 22:40 & 46  Verse 40 says “And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.'”  And in verse 46 He repeats His advice “Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

This caught me a little by surprise.  Who did Jesus say His disciples should pray for?  Not for HIM… but for themselves.  “Pray that YOU may not enter into temptation.”

Now, what possible temptation could they be facing?  The temptation they faced was this:  The temptation to feel that God had abandoned them.

Have you ever seen what a child does when they’re in bed and they become afraid of the dark? What do they do?  That’s right. They go get in bed with Mom and Dad.  They seek out an adult. That’s what that little boy did at the zoo.  As long as the child is with that adult (mom, dad, police, etc.) they’re not afraid.  And that’s because the adult represents power and protection that even the dark can’t overcome.

But as we get older (and we face a time of darkness) we find that WE are the adults in the room. And it doesn’t always seem quite right to find some other person and slip our hand into theirs for comfort.

A man named Paul Faulkner told of a woman who came to him for counseling. She told him that nothing was working in her life. Her daughter had been killed, her husband was unfaithful, and now she thought she was about to lose her job.  In the course of the counseling session, Faulkner asked her:   “When the world crashes in on you, to whom do you go?”  She paused a long time before saying, “I guess I just go to myself.”  She told him that the one word that most described her was “alone.”

You see – that’s the temptation.   The temptation to go it alone.

As adults we tend to forget that there is someone out there who is bigger than we are… someone bigger than the darkness we face.

Philippians 4:5b-7 says something very interesting: “The Lord is near; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Don’t be ANXIOUS about anything.  Why not? Why shouldn’t I get anxious???  Because the Lord is near.   He’s the big guy in the room.  He’s the one who wants to hold your hand when you become afraid.  And He’s promised to never leave you or forsake you.

But if I forget that He is near the power of darkness can overwhelm me.

And so I need to reach out and take hold of His hand, especially when life gets dark.

But how?  How do I take hold of God’s hand?  That leads me to the 2nd principle of this text:   When faced with a situation you can’t handle, you take hold of God’s hand through prayer. You see – prayer is faith in action. Prayer is the act of looking to the God who answers prayer. Prayer is the declaration that God has the POWER to help me walk thru the darkness.

Luke 22 tells me “(Jesus) withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed…. An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:41, 43-44

Now notice, Jesus’ prayer didn’t change the outcome.  Here is the Son of God in prayer – not once, not twice but 3 times asking that this cup be  taken away.

* That he could be excused the sufferings of death,
* delivered from the curse of the law,
* and shielded from the wrath of God that He was bear to the cross because He carried in His person all the sins of all mankind.

The pain that Jesus was about to endure was not just the physical torture of the Cross but also the mental and spiritual torture that He would endure because He was going to the cross as our substitute. On the cross, Jesus bore OUR punishment of sin.  The horror of what Jesus was about to go  thru was more than anyone would want to endure  And so Jesus prayed.

But His prayer didn’t change the outcome.  He still endured the trials, the beatings, the nails and ultimately the wrath of God upon the sin of all mankind.

So, why pray?  Why would Jesus bother?  Because prayer was taking hold of His Father’s hand. It was the point at which the darkness was so intense that only the comfort of prayer was going to do anything for Him.

One man noted: If we had witnessed His struggle that night, we might have said, “If He is so broken up when all He is doing is praying, what will He do when He faces real crisis? Why can’t He approach this ordeal with the calm confidence of His 3 sleeping friends?” Yet when the test came, Jesus walked to the cross with the courage, and His 3 friends fell apart and ran away.

I read of a woman who was facing a terrible situation and her friend was trying to console her. The friend said, “I guess suffering colors our lives.”

To which the woman replied: “Yes. But I get to choose which color.”

In prayer we may be overcome with our personal darkness, but praying gives us the power to choose which color the darkness becomes for us. It allows us to choose which shade of blackness we face.

In His praying, Jesus chose the color of His suffering.   Through His praying He sought His Father’s comfort and strength.  And Jesus received that comfort and strength through the angel.  The angel didn’t rescue Jesus from His fate, the angel rescued Him from His suffering.  The angel came to give Jesus — peace.

Some might say – that kind of prayer is a pipe dream.   They says “If the world gets dark around me, I want something real and tangible. I want something that makes sense. How could you possibly think that just praying changes anything?”

At this point in the sermon, I’ve instructed the people in the sound booth to turn off all auditorium lights.   Our suffering could be compared to this darkness you sense now.  How am I going to turn those lights back on? What if I didn’t know where the light switches were? Or what if I couldn’t get to them because I couldn’t find my way in the dark, or there were obstacles between me and them?   How could I turn those lights back on?  I would ask the sound crew wouldn’t I?  (To the Sound Crew) Would you turn the lights back on?  Why did the lights come back on?   Because I asked.

That’s exactly Philippians 4:6-7 promises us:   “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When you and I face dark times we need to make our requests known to God.   And because we ask, God says He will turn on the lights in our darkness.   Now, it may not make any sense. It may surpass all understanding. But when we make our requests known to God He promises to turn on the lights… to give us His peace.

And so the first principle of dealing with the dark times in life is to remember that God is nearby. He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. He’s the big guy in the room.  The 2nd principle is take hold of His hand by praying.  And the 3rd principle is believing that God has the power to help me walk thru the darkness.

In Luke 22 we’re told that “(Jesus) withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.'” Luke 22:41-42

These are the only words we read in Scripture of the prayer Jesus prayed in Gethsemane  “Not my will, but Thine be done.”  This a prayer of submission to the Father’s will.  Jesus is saying “I don’t like this plan. I don’t REALLY want to do this plan, but no matter what happens I will stick with the plan… because I trust you to work the plan.”

You see, when we follow God, we have to believe that He HAS A PLAN.

That plan may be painful, it may be hard to understand, it may even be scary. But there is a plan and it has a reason behind it.  Even when the darkness we’re surrounded by isn’t part of His plan, He can make it part of His plan.

One of the most disturbing things I hear people say to folks who are going through difficult times is “it happened for a reason,” as if God caused the problems or the loss or the betrayal they’ve had to endure.   That really disturbs me because I seriously doubt that that’s true all the time.

I think many of the problems we experience in our lives are not the result of God’s plan, but of our own foolish choices. Or the result of the mean-spirited or thoughtless actions of others. But God says it doesn’t matter. Whether something has happened in our lives that is part of His plan or not… if we trust Him, He’ll MAKE that problem part of His plan.

That’s what Romans 8:28 is telling us when it says “we know that in all things God works   for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Do you love God?  Have you been called according to His purpose?

Well, God is telling you that ALL THINGS will work together for good in your life.  Note that it’s not saying that “all things are good”  Nor that “All things are of God”  BUT it is saying – it doesn’t make any difference. God will MAKE all things will work together for good in your life.

Because God has a plan.

And because of that, because we believe God has a plan, prayer gives us the power to walk through our dark times with confidence.

After His prayer, a group of soldiers come to arrest Jesus. The man who would betray Him with a kiss leads this band of men.

And what does Jesus do?  He speaks kindly to Judas (are you betraying Son of man with a kiss?)  He gently rebukes the soldiers (are you coming after me like I’m a leader of a rebellion?)  And when Peter cuts off the ear of one of them Jesus touches the man’s ear and heals him.  AND THEN, Jesus allows Himself to be taken away to suffer and die at the hands of evil men.

How could Jesus do that?  How could Jesus so confidently walk to His torture and death?  Because He trusted His Father to carry Him thru the darkness.  And He knew He had to go through this time of darkness – to suffer, to die, and be buried He had to go through ALL of that so that He could rise from the dead and conquer the grave.

I listened to one teacher explain that this often how God does things in our lives.  He called it “The Death of a Vision”. He explained that almost all of the great men and women in Scripture received a vision of what God could do in their lives. This was followed by the “death” of that vision and then by the resurrection of their dreams.

You see it over and over again throughout Scripture.

1. Abraham was given a vision – he will have a son.   But then his vision died: Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his son on Mt. Moriah.  Then God supplies a ram for the sacrifice and Abraham literally receives his son back from the dead.

2. Joseph was given a vision – he would be a great man  But then his vision died: brothers sell him into slavery and he ends up being unjustly accused and thrown into prison.  Then God literally pulls raises Joseph from the dead – rescuing him from prison to be the 2nd most important man in Egypt.

3. Moses had a vision that he would be the savior of Israel and rescue them from slavery  But then his vision dies: he ends up running for his life and spending 40 years in the wilderness.  Then God literally brings him back from the dead to face Pharaoh and free Israel.

You see it again, and again, and again throughout Scripture. Men filled with vision, being overcome by the darkness of failure – but then God worked all things together for good in their lives just like He can do for us.

This is so important that God made this message part of our salvation: Romans 6:1-5  “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?  By no means! WE DIED to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were BAPTIZED INTO HIS DEATH?  We were therefore BURIED WITH HIM through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be UNITED WITH HIM IN HIS RESURRECTION.”

We serve a God of hope, and of light, and of resurrection. We have a gift from God that this world cannot understand and cannot equal. We have the ability to walk through the darkness of this world with confidence because Jesus is the light of our lives.   But you can’t have that confidence and light until you first belong to Jesus.

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