His Darkest Hour
Before the Sermon;
Let me begin by reading a few verses for you in the Gospel according to St Matthew, the 26th chapter, beginning at the 36th verse: “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” verses 36-39
My Sermon today, entitled “His Darkest Hour” is a reflection on the last hours of the life of Jesus Christ, which was the darkest period in the history of the entire world.
Here we find an incident in the last hours of the life of Christ which I want us to think about and see what practical application we have in our own lives and the world in which
we live today.
Many people say to me, “We do not understand the Gospel. We do not understand what you mean by receiving Christ or being born again.” They do not understand why Christ had to die on the cross in order for us to be saved. They do not understand the dark hours of Gethsemane. They do not understand why Christ voluntarily laid down His life. They do not understand why He endured the shame of the cross. They do not understand all the phrases in the Bible that talk about blood.
Many times in the Scriptures you find phrases like
“the blood of Christ” Hebrews 9:14;
or “the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin” 1 John 1:7
and People revolt against that. They do not like that, and they wonder why that’s in the Bible. They wonder why so much stress is placed upon the crucifixion and the resurrection of
Jesus Christ. Today I want us to see that these last hours in the life of Christ were the darkest in history, yet it was the darkest just before the dawn.
I believe that history has a way of repeating itself.
And when the world comes to that moment of despair, that moment when it is about to blow itself apart, that moment when it seems there is no solution; at that moment, the sun will rise. The kingdom of God shall come because we have the promise in the Scripture that Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is coming back to this earth again. He is going to set up His kingdom and then shall the prayer be answered as He taught in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come” Matthew 6:10.
His kingdom shall rule!
But before the triumph, before the crown, before the kingdom, before the victory, there had to come the suffering. Before you can share in Christ’s victory, before you can have a new life here and now, before you can go to heaven, before you can claim the promise that we shall someday reign with Christ, you too, must come to that same cross. You too, must come in simple faith and stand at the foot of that cross and receive the Saviour who was willing to go to the cross.
I want you to picture Him on this night before He died.
He has had the last supper with his disciples in the upper room, and they have come to the Mount of Olives. Now they are in the garden that is called Gethsemane. And Jesus leaves eight of His
disciples on the outskirts of the garden and He takes three with Him – Peter, James and John. He goes a little further into the garden, and He tells these three disciples to watch and pray. Then He goes about a stone’s throw farther along and falls prostrate on the ground and begins an agonizing prayer.
Before He was finished, the Bible says “His sweat, as it were, were great drops of blood“? Luke 22:44.
What agony! How Christ must have prayed that night. Many times in Scripture you find Christ praying all night. If Jesus Christ had to pray all night, what about us with our sectarian and racial problems, with our economic problems, with the problem of crime that is getting worse with every passing day, with all the social problems that we face in the world and the personal problems and the problem of sin, we are not praying. We are not calling upon God. We give lip service to God, but our hearts are often far from Him! Matthew 15:8.
We can no longer call ourselves a Christian nation. While
there are Christians living in Ireland, and Christian influences have been prominent in this country for centuries; today we are a heathen, pagan country. Less than 1 in every 100 go to Church at any time. We are away from God. We have beautiful churches, but our hearts are far from God. We are not spending time in prayer. We too are even now living in a very Dark Hour. We are living on the brink of hell itself, living on the brink of annihilation; and we are not praying. Few are truly aware of the dangers to come, even in the Church.
Jesus prayed and agonized until he sweat drops of blood. That night Jesus prayed a mysterious prayer, an unusual prayer, a strange prayer. He said, “Oh God, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.”
What did He mean by that prayer, “Let this cup pass from me”?
Imagine a spoonful of medicine being offered to a child, and he shrinks back. Then, at the encouragement of his mother, he takes it. That night a bitter cup was offered to Jesus, and He shrank from it. Why? Let me explain. Always the cross had been before Christ since the day He was at His baptism (John 1:29); at the temptation (Matthew 4:1-11); and at the marriage of Cana of Galilee when He said, “My hour is not yet come” (John 2:1-4); when the crowd wanted to make Him a king, and at the Mount of Transfiguration, when He talked to Elijah and Moses (Matthew 17:1-4) … Through it all, He knew that He must die.
He told His disciples He must go to the cross. He knew from Old Testament Scriptures about the suffering the Messiah must endure. The shadow of the cross was before Him all his life.
He knew that He had to go to the cross to pay for our sins if we were to be saved. But here was that DARK hour, and the cup of suffering was bitter.
In order for us to understand the ingredients of the elixir of the cup that night, I want us to look into it deeply for a moment.
I want for us to see it and analyse it. I want us to see how much Christ endured that we might be forgiven of sin, that we might go to heaven, that we might have some hope of the solution of our problems.
The first element in that cup was physical pain. Men had died terrible deaths before. Men had been thrown into boiling water; thrown to Lions or burned at the stake. Others had died and suffered greatly. But the death of the cross was some-thing even worse than we could imagine. The death of the cross is said to be the worst possible torture that a man can endure.
Because, first, they would strip a man to the waist. Then they would tie his hands together and bend him over and take long leather thongs with lead pellets or steel pellets embedded in the leather thongs, and beat him across the back until his back was in ribbons. And many times the lash of those thongs would come around the face and eyes, and take eyes out by the sockets, even tear teeth out. In those days, often death followed just the scourging and the floggings that were given by great muscular men. Jesus endured that kind of flogging for you and for me.
Then they took a crown of thorns and placed it on His brow, and His face bled as they pulled at his beard. Then they spat in His face… hatred, prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, all the evil that the human heart could invent and inflict on Gods dear Son.
And remember that Christ was not killed by Rome or Israel.
The Bible tells us that Christ was crucified by you and me; my sins and your sins crucified Christ. We had a part in it, all the hatred of mankind. We have seen in our time and in recent days what human hatred can do. We have seen how some with bombs and bullets can express their hatred towards their fellow human beings, and their fellow country-men. May God have mercy upon them. The human heart is expressed in that cross as they flogged Him, as they beat Him, as they spat on Him, as they
put a crown of thorns on Him.
Then they gave Him a 250-pound cross to carry. He stumbled along the road with that cross until Simon of Cyrene had to come and help Him carry the cross; Mark 15:21. And I am certain Simon, today in the Glory, is thrilled and proud of the fact that he helped Jesus carry the cross. Have you helped Jesus to carry the cross, or were you one of those putting nails in His hands?
You say, “But, David, I would never put a nail in Jesus’ hands. I would never flog Him.” Wouldn’t you? You did it today!
The sin that you committed today helped to crucify Jesus Christ because those people were all our representatives. We were expressing ourselves in them. You and I helped crucify Jesus.
He was dying for our sins, and theirs.
Then they took Him to Golgotha’s hill, and they put spikes in His hands. They tore His hands and His feet. He never uttered a sound. The pain, the thirst – His tongue was swollen. He hung hour after hour on that terrible cross. That was His cross.
Then there was the suffering of loneliness
Because Jesus went to the cross alone. No one else could go with Him. He was the Son of God. He was the only one in the universe who could bear all of our sins. He was the Paschal Lamb of the Passover season, and the lamb had to be without blemish (Spotless) Exodus 12:5. He was the Paschal Lamb being slain from the foundation of the world for our sins; Revelation 13:8. He alone had in His body and in His soul the capacity to bear our sins.
Because, you see, we had sinned against God. We had rebelled against God, and we deserve death and we deserve judgment and we deserve hell. But Jesus said, “I will take the judgment, I will take the hell, and I will take the suffering.” And He went to that cross alone – because only He could suffer for you and me. Only He could be offered as a sacrifice that would be pleasing to God and would reconcile God and man together. So He endured it alone.
Judas was betraying Him for thirty pieces of silver, about £12 Matthew 26:14-16. Have you betrayed Him today? That lie you told betrayed Jesus, the lustful thoughts that you have, the
immoral acts that you get into, the cheating that you did in the business. How many times we have betrayed Him! We were all part of that betrayal and are just as guilty as Judas. Jesus died alone. The disciples forsook Him, and Peter denied Him.
There He is, alone and hanging on the cross for our sins.
It breaks my heart to know I am guilty too, but I am. Now,
there are many types of loneliness. There is the loneliness of solitude. There is the loneliness of society; and there is
the loneliness of suffering.
Some of you are listening me today in hospital and you are lonely lying there. A lady gave her life to Christ some time ago. And she said, “I’ve been crippled for five years with arthritis, and I have suffered. What a terrible suffering I have had.” Then she added, “I have spent many a day alone, but never a lonely day.” Give your life to Christ, and you need never have a lonely day. Because, you see, Jesus has also suffered. He knows what it means to suffer, and in suffering He understands your suffering. He can come and put His hand on your brow and comfort you, and be there by your side during those lonely hours of suffering.
Then there is the loneliness of sorrow.
You have been in the sickroom and you have seen a loved one snatched away from you. You couldn’t do anything about it. Your heart has been crushed by sorrow.
There is disappointment in your life. Maybe your husband or wife has walked out on you. Maybe your boyfriend has left you, and your heart is crushed with the pain of it?
Jesus also suffered, and He knows. He stood at the grave of His friend Lazarus and wept: John 11-35. He knows what it means to have a crushing sorrow. He can be there with you right now. He can wipe your tears away. He can give you a joy and peace in your heart and take away that loneliness.
Then there is the loneliness of sin.
That is the worst of all. The Bible says when Judas betrayed Jesus on that last night at the supper, he left the meeting of the disciples and he went out – because it was night: John 13:30. You remember when you were young and your conscience was sensitive. If you told a lie, your conscience spoke to you. But now it has become hardened and seared. There are many of you sitting listening right now, and You wish your life were different. You wish that you were not chained by the habits of sin today. You wish that you could be free but you cannot get free, although you have tried. Yes, there is loneliness of sin, a consciousness that you need help from a power greater than yourself. But if you will turn to Jesus and ask Him to free you. Let Christ come into your life and change it, and then heaven will be your destiny. There will be no loneliness in heaven.
The Bible says there will be no sorrow there of any kind there.
The third element in this bitter cup was the mental anguish.
Jesus had quoted Isaiah the prophet. Jesus knew He had to suffer. He knew something about the affliction of the next day and that
night in the garden. He knew what was going to take place, and naturally He was suffering much anguish as He thought about the suffering of the next day.
We have thousands of people in this country who are suffering mentally. We have thousands of psychological problems. We have thousands of people in our mental institutions. We have thousands of people today who are confused mentally. I want to tell you that Jesus can touch your mind if you will let Him come in. Because many of our mental problems are the result of spiritual separation from God, or they are the result of idolatry.
They are the result of putting other things before God, and that cause’s mental instability many times. There are thousands of people who are suffering mentally. Their minds are tortured and bewildered, wondering what is the right thing to do in their particular crisis or complicated situation.
I tell you Christ is the answer, there is a wisdom, a supernatural wisdom that comes with knowing Him!
We need Christ. Our country needs Christ. Yet at such a time of national and international crisis, governments are turning their backs on God, even purposely taking the Prayer Times out of the Parliamentary Sittings? What Folly!
The fourth element in this bitter cup that Jesus was about to drink was the cup of the anguish of soul.
The physical pain, the loneliness of its shame, and the mental anguish were small – compared to the spiritual suffering which Jesus Christ suffered on the cross that day. That night before, He was thinking about God, and His suffering was wrapped up in one little word “sin.” Because that next day Jesus was going to become guilty of your sins and my sins. A cloud was going to pass between Him and God and, for the first time, His pure
righteous soul was going to be filled with sin. Your sins were going to be laid on Him. The Scripture says that God “had laid on him the iniquity of us all” Isaiah 53:6. The Bible says He was “made … to be sin for us, (he) who knew no sin” 2 Cor 5:21. He had never known sin, but He was made to be sin.
His soul must have shuddered. His soul must have been shaken. How Jesus must have looked with horror. He said, “O God, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. O God, I don’t want to have to drink this cup. If there is any other way to save men, if there is any other way for the world to be saved, let it be done.”
Yet there was no other way but the Cross. If I could tell you another way of salvation that is easier, I would tell you. I can tell you today after studying this book for fifty years, there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved – except the name of Jesus: Acts 4:12. There is no other place of salvation – except at the foot of the cross. There I see the amazing love of God, that “God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. You have rebelled against God, you have sinned against God, you have done things that you know you should not have done. You have even helped to crucify Jesus. But in spite of it all, God loves you.
In that cross I find my complete redemption. Christ bowed His head and said, “It is finished” John 19:30. I cannot add anything to it. I cannot take anything away. If I am ever to get to heaven, I will have to come to the cross. If I am ever to have my sins forgiven, I will have to come to the cross.
I want to ask you today, have you ever been to the cross? Are you sure that you have had this encounter with God at the cross? You may be a member of the church. You may live a moral life. You may be a decent person. I don’t know who you are or what you are. It doesn’t make any difference where you come from or what your nationality background is, what state you live in, how rich or how poor, how educated or uneducated, you MUST come to the cross. There is no other way. I tell you, there is only one way of forgiveness and redemption and salvation, and that is the cross of Christ.
I am asking you to come to the cross today. I am asking you to come by faith and say, “O God, I have sinned. O God, I am sorry for the things I have done. I am coming by faith to receive thy Son.” Come and do it now. Amen.