That Terrible Hour

"Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from THIS HOUR: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name" (John 12:27).

"This is YOUR HOUR, and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53).

Consider these words, my soul, in the presence of Him who spoke them. Note well the fact that there was an hour in the years of the Saviour's life below that was full of horror for Him, an hour from which He shrunk with a perfect shrinking and from which He would have escaped had any way been found in heaven above or on earth beneath. It was the hour of the unrestrained hatred of men and of the power of darkness.

He had trodden a rough road, but in all His ways God had given His angels charge over Him, and in their hands they had borne Him up, lest at any time He should have dashed His foot against a stone. So that, though His adversaries hated Him with a virulent hatred, they could not hurt Him. They led Him to the edge of the rock upon which their city was built in order to hurl Him into the abyss beneath it, but He, passing through the midst of them, went His way unharmed. The very stones that they picked up to cast at Him clave to their murderous hands while He "passed by." No malice of evil, whether of men or devils, had been able to break through the unseen angelic cordon, but for this terrible hour that protection was taken away. An angel brought Him heavenly succour in the garden and withdrew, and He turned to His foes and said to them, "This is your hour and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:43-53).

It was then that every element of evil beset Him roundabout. The floods rolled upon Him, and no voice was uplifted to cry unto them, "Hitherto shall ye come and no further." The dread array that had sought means to crush Him during the days of His lowly service amongst men combined against Him. The reins that had restrained them were thrown free, there was no check upon them, and their utmost fury broke upon Him. He was reproached, despised, and railed upon. Strong bulls of Bashan encompassed Him, gaping upon Him as a ravening and roaring lion; dogs beset Him; the assembly of the wicked enclosed Him. The sword, the power of the dog, the lion's mouth, the horns of the unicorn (Ps. 22) — all these in that dread hour sought out His soul to destroy Him; for to destroy Him was to destroy all that was good, and to overthrow Him was to overthrow the very throne of God. Upon Him — that one solitary Man, the Nazarene — who in that darkness had no helper, depended every hope of all the saints, and the confidence of the host of great unfallen angelic principalities, and the stability of the universe, and the supremacy of God.

We dwell upon the hatred of men, but we have seen nothing and known nothing so terrible as their hatred of Him, for never before, nor since, had proud men been confronted with absolute meekness; never before, nor since, had sin been unrestrained in the presence of perfect goodness, unprotected. But what of the malignity of the devil, and of those awful and entirely evil spiritual powers in rebellion against God, the roll of which is called in Psalm 22? Of these how little we know. Thank God, we know so little; we should have known much more had our Lord Jesus not faced them for us; but He knew, with divine and all-embracing prescience, their full strength before He entered that hour. Do we wonder that He prayed, "Father, save Me from this hour." But how worthy of everlasting adoration is He because of that supremely blessed and full consecration of soul which made Him say, "FATHER, GLORIFY THY NAME." This was the grand purpose of His life below, and to secure this He entered and passed through that hour.

It was the supreme hour in which darkness wrestled against light for the mastery. How closely He was beset in the palace of the High Priest, before the Sanhedrin, in the house of Pilate, before the throne of Herod; in the place called Gabbatha, on the road to Golgotha, and finally on the malefactor's gibbet. We are permitted to hear His cry, I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws; and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death . . . Deliver My soul . . . Save Me."

There was not a weapon in the vast armoury of evil, that Satan and his hosts had been preparing throughout the ages for this awful conflict, that was not brought against Him, the sent One of God, to force Him from the path of God's will and to make Him cry "I yield" to the authority of darkness. Yet He did not yield. He was wholly light, darkness could gain no foothold in Him. The prince of this world came, but he had nothing in Him. Blessed, holy, adorable Lord! Having exhausted every device of their almost boundless malice, and exhausted themselves in their fury against Him, they sat down to watch Him there (Matt. 27:36) — men and devils, amazed, baffled, defeated, crowding together about Him. Thrones and dominions had fallen before Satan as the great leader of all evil, so that he had become "the prince of this world," and "the prince of the power of the air." His conquests were far-reaching and his triumphs great; he had only to drive back the Son of God from doing the will of God and then would his victories be crowned with everlasting success; but in that one poor and lonely Man, despised by the people, abandoned by lover and friend, and forsaken of God, he met his conqueror.

Consider Him, my soul; He had neither reply nor reproach for the men who mocked Him; had He cursed them Satan would have triumphed, but only prayers for their blessing were forced from His suffering soul by their cruelty. He was laughed to scorn because God did not aid Him in His dire necessity; and to make Him cast off His faith was the enemy's fell purpose, but neither repining nor rebuke were heard in His cries as He poured out His sorrow before God, whose ear seemed deaf to the voice of His supplication. Nevertheless he still cried, "My God, My God . . . O My God . . . Thou art holy . . . Thou art He . . . I was cast upon Thee . . . Thou art My God . . . O My strength" (Ps. 22).

So He triumphed, and trod the foes of God beneath His feet by being trodden down. And because no power of evil could overcome Him He was able to take up the question of sin on behalf of sinful men and settle that question to the everlasting glory of God, by bearing His righteous judgment against it. He had suffered for righteousness, and in faithfulness to the will of God, but when the full tale of His suffering in regard to these was told He entered into deeper depths and into a darker hour, for He was made "to be sin for us who knew no sin." It pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He put Him to grief when He made His soul our offering for sin. He died, and through death He has annulled him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. He lives again and has the keys of death and hades. He is crowned with glory and honour. He must be exalted and extolled and made very high, and He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied when the greatness of God's triumph through Him is publicly manifested to the wide universe. How glorious is He. The forces of evil have been met and vanquished; the judgment of God against sin has been borne and His justice glorified; the power of death has been destroyed by His dying, and He lives to die no more. No wonder that His saints delight to sing —

"Bless, bless the Conqueror slain,
  Slain in His victory,
Who lived, who died, who lives again,
  For thee, His Church, for thee."