Services of Darkness-The Last Hours of Christ’s Life
Luke 22:39-53New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[a]
Take some of the light from the Christ candle and light the candle in the communion cup
45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
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.”
Jesus went out as usual, but there was nothing usual about this time or this night. In a few short hours Jesus would be taken to the cross. Jesus returns to a familiar place of prayer. In His humanity Jesus asks if God is willing to take this cup from Him, but then affirms that no matter the cost of grace He will pay it. An angel comes to strengthen Him, and He uses that additional strength to continue to pray. The weight of the world and the burden of sin and betrayal pushes His body hard as He sweats blood comes through His pores.
The greatest act of betrayal is done with one of the greatest gestures of love, a kiss! Jesus’ question cut to the core of Judas and those that came to arrest Him. Basically that the ministry of Christ has been a public ministry so why arrest me in the dead of night. You have had ample opportunity to do so before. “This is your hour-when darkness reigns.”
Extinguish Candle # 1
Jesus’ Arrest & Peter Disowns Jesus-Luke 22:54-65
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.
The Guards Mock Jesus
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.
Betrayed and now denied and rejected. Peter who is normally the one who jumps in without thinking is now cautious and reserved wanting to see what is going on but also wanting to be safe. When following Jesus, even at a distance, as Peter discovered it was harder and harder to deny Him, and then rooster crowed. The denials, betrayals, and false accusations have been brought into the light. Peter went from being a follower to a failure, and from being the rock to a broken and fractured man who wept bitterly. The guards mocked Jesus as a prophet, as they blindfold and strike Him, demanding “who is it that hit you?” This would only be the beginning of the abuse He would endure for each of us.
Extinguish Candle #2
The Three Trials (Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod)-Luke 22:66-23:12
66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.”
Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied, “You say that I am.”
71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”
23 Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”
3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
5 But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”
6 On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12 That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.
Jesus is now at the edge of no return, the next pivotal moments accelerate Jesus to the cross. The ruling council asks a question, or rather presses Jesus about His identity. “If you are the Christ…tell us?” If Jesus speak the truth and tells them a truth they are not ready or willing to hear it becomes His death sentence as a blasphemer. Jesus responds if I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you would remain silent not willing to entertain the idea.
Jesus speaks vaguely to them, so the counter with a direct question “Are you then the Son of God?” He tells them they are right, and Jesus is accused as a blasphemer because the men of the council already believe Him to be so. He has incriminated Himself by His testimony of His identity, and the law is too small to see the expanse of grace.
Pilate doesn’t want to deal with Him so he sends Jesus to Herod. Herod wants to be entertained by the miracles of Jesus, but when Jesus will perform none Herod mocks Jesus and sends Him back to Pilate. It was this day that Pilate and Herod became friends. They see eye to eye on this Jesus thing. They see Jesus maybe as delusional but certainly no threat to either to deserve death. Yet death was in Jesus’ near future.
Extinguish Candle # 3
Pilate Seeks Jesus’ Release-Luke 23:13-25
13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”  [b]
18 But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”
23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
Pilate tells the Jewish council that neither he nor Herod found any fault in Jesus. Further, that it appears these charges are false. It is bad when religious legalism is more damning than the government. Pilate says that he will punish and then release Jesus. The crowds had been excited to a blood lust. Their desire for the murder of Jesus became so great that they would ask for one of their own a murderer Barabbas. Pilate continues to plead, but inevitably consents to give the crowd their wish.
Extinguish Candle # 4
Simon Bears the Cross-Luke 26-32
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then
“‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!”’[c]
31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[d] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Pause for the sound effect of the hammer and the nails
Jesus tells them not to weep for Him but themselves, because if people are willing to do these things while the life of the world, Jesus is among them, what more will they do when He is no longer there? He prays from the cross for their forgiveness even as they gamble away His clothes.
Extinguish Candle #5
The Crucifixion-Luke 23:33-45
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[e]”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The Death of Jesus
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[f] When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The mocking continues first, you have saved others now save yourself. Second, if you are the King of the Jews, save yourself. Third, if you are who you say you are save yourself and us too. Each one shows that lack of understanding that this death of Christ would be for the salvation of the world. The one criminal rebukes the first and rightly states that they are getting what they deserve but Christ has done nothing wrong. In that wonderful moment a man on the doorstep of death sees Jesus for who He really is and will spend eternity in paradise because of it.
At the height of the day darkness covers the whole land for three hours. The curtain that separates God from man, the Holy of Holies is torn in two because Jesus is that bridge. Then Jesus gives up His spirit to the Father, and breathed His last.
Extinguish Candle # 6
Death & Burial-Luke 23:46-53
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
The Burial of Jesus
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.
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Extinguish Candle # 7
The Satan thought He had won, the Jewish Leader thought they could go on with life as usual, Herod and Pilate didn’t have to be bothered by this Jesus or so they thought. Although Jesus lay dead in the tomb, and even God seemed silent, remember it would not be long before God would speak and His Living Word Jesus Christ would live again.