The Offending Hour

Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. John 16:32

The Hour!

It was coming!

Yea, it has already come, though the disciples did not yet realize its awful implications.

Somehow they are filled with fear and apprehensions of evil things impending that night; their hearts were troubled,

Strange things had already happened.

The last supper, the passover, the Master had so greatly desired to celebrate with them, had been eaten; and it had been changed into a feast of commemoration and participation of the broken body and shed blood of their Lord. The traitor had been dismissed, though the disciples had not all understood for what evil purpose he had departed from the upper room, and knew not that even at this very hour he was plotting with the enemies to betray the Lord unto them. And the beloved Master had repeatedly spoken of His departure from them, and told them that they would not be able to follow Him wither He went. . . .

And now they were on their way to the garden.

Across the brook Cedron.

And words of comfort the Lord had addressed to them.

Their hearts must not be troubled. He would go to the Father, in whose house there are many mansions. And He would prepare place for them, return to them, receive them with all His own in that house of many mansions, that they might also be where He is. It was profitable for them that He should go away, for then the Comforter could come, Whom He would send from the Father. . . .

And the disciples thought they understood. And believed. . . .

And yet, the hour was still coming!

And the horror of that hour would far surpass their darkest forebodings of it. They believed, yes, indeed; but in that hour their faith would be shaken to its foundations.

Hence, the trying question of Jesus: Do ye now believe? Now?

The hour is, indeed, already come, yet it is still coming!

And as it advances the moment will arrive that its real meaning will be an offense to you!

It will scatter you!

Each will turn to his own! And me ye will leave alone!

Amazing hour!

The hour is come!

Of that hour Jesus had often spoken.

Always that hour stood clearly before His consciousness.

Even at the very beginning of His public ministry, when at the wedding in Cana His mother had suggested that He should show, forth His power and glory, little realizing in what way only that glory could be attained, He had been mindful of His hour and replied: Woman, what have I to do with thee? My hour is not yet come!

Often, too, when His enemies, whose hour was always come, would take and kill Him, He had escaped from their midst, or they had been restrained from laying their hands on Him, because His hour had not yet come!

Of this hour the Lord also spoke now, to His disciples.

No, He does not merely mean to tell them that a time will come when they shall leave Him alone, when each one of them shall turn to His own and they all shall be scattered. On the contrary, He speaks of the hour, His hour, the same hour of which He had often spoken, and warns them, that as soon as this hour shall be revealed to them in its real significance, in its horrible darkness, they shall be offended in Him and turn to their own interests!

The hour!

God’s hour it was, the hour appointed by the Father, when all things should be prepared for the slaying of the Lamb, for the judgment of the world, for the casting out of the prince of this world, for the reconciliation of the world, for the shedding of the blood of atonement, for the outpouring of the vials of God’s wrath against the sin of mankind, for the redemption of the elect, for the crushing of the serpent’s head! It was the “due time.” For in “due time” God would have His Christ die for the ungodly. Not any time could He die. It must be at the appointed time. And because it was God’s hour, it was also Jesus’ hour, for He had come to do the Father’s will. And because it was the Father’s hour and His hour it must needs be the hour of the world, the hour of the powers of darkness. Even though they had decreed that it should not be on the feast, lest there should be uproar among the people, this was “the hour,” and all must hasten to prepare themselves for it: “what thou doest, do quickly!”

That hour had even now come!

For already the powers of darkness were hastening to play their part in the drama that must be enacted in this hour. Even as the Lord, comforting His eleven disciples, made His way through the darkened streets of the “Holy City”, across the brook Cedron to the garden of sorrows, the traitor is leading the band of soldiers and men, armed with swords and staves, through those same streets, first to the upper room, where he probably expected to find the Master, then to the garden of olives, to lay wicked hands on the Lord of glory. Yes, the hour had begun to strike. . . .

Yet, it had not fully come.

The real horror of it had not yet become clear to the minds of the disciples.

It was still coming. . . .

And then they would turn to their own, the disciples that now believed that He came forth from God, all of them; and they would leave Him alone!

Scattered!

Every man to his own! No, not merely would each flee to his own place for personal safety in that hour, but they would be scattered in order that each might seek his own things, pursue his own interests, which in that hour would scatter them in different directions, away from Christ and His “hour”! It was their relation to Christ that united them. But in that hour this relation would appear to be broken. A sharp conflict there would arise in that awful hour between their relation to Him and their own interests, and the latter they would pursue. . . .

And leave Him alone!

In the hands of His enemies they would leave Him in that hour, without assistance, without defense, without the comfort of their relationship. . . .

And thus it happened when the hour was come!

None of them remained with Him in the hour of need!

All fled!

None of them uttered a word in His defense in the hour of His trial!

All were scattered!

The hour had come!

Offending hour!

Was ever beloved Master so utterly forsaken by His own?

Why, then, should He, the most Beloved of all, be so forsaken by those that loved Him?

Surely, it cannot be that these eleven men were wholly devoid of courage and were motivated by common cowardice when they were scattered and each turned to IWs own!

Neither can their attitude and action is that hour be explained from lack of love for Him!

With all their heart they were attached to Him. That they should ever leave Him alone, depart from Him, forsake Him, seemed utterly impossible to them. Had they not confessed it, that He had the words of eternal life and that they had known and believed that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God? Where, then, should they go if they left Him? They belonged to Him. Apart from Him they had no place in the world. His cause was their cause. Where He would go, they would go. Where He would die, they would die!

Such was their love to Him!

And such was also their courage!

Indeed, they were ready to go with Him into prison and into death! Solemnly they had pledged their very lives to Him even that very night. One and all they had asseverated that they would rather die with Him than ever forsake or deny Him. And they were prepared. Swords they had secured in order that they might fight to the death for Him they loved. Neither did their courage forsake them when the enemy came and would lay hands on the beloved Master. Ready they were to put to good use the swords they had taken with them into the garden. And one of them, always their leader, gave the signal, drew the sword, and would have split the head of one of the Master’s enemies. . . .

Yet, in spite of their love to the Lord, and notwithstanding the undeniable fact that they were men of courage and devotion and were quite prepared to lay down their lives for His sake, they were all scattered, each to his own, and left Him utterly alone! . . . .

Why?

What was there in this hour of Jesus that was more horrible than any human love or courage could endure?

It was the hour of offense!

Offended they were, one and all! Thus, according to the gospel-narratives by Matthew and Mark, the Lord had definitely announced it to His disciples: “All ye shall be offended in me this night”! Offended they were in Him! There was in this hour an element of offense, which even their love and devotion to the Master could not overcome. An offense is a stumbling- block, something that is put in one’s way, over which he stumbles and falls and may break his neck. And such was Christ to them in this hour of His sorrow and suffering. . . .

The hour!

In that hour, when it finally arrived in all its horror, when it finally was exposed before the understanding of the astounded disciples, there was something utterly contrary, not only to their darkest apprehensions of it, but to all their aspirations and human experience. There was an element of horror in that hour, that made it inhuman, so that even their love to the master could not induce them to stay with Him, and their courage and devotion proved insufficient. . . .

They were offended in Him!

And that element of offense lay in His absolutely voluntary surrender and suffering!

It must needs be so!

Willingly He must descend into the lower parts of the earth, into the darkness of Sheol, into the depth of hell. For, our sins He must bear and forever blot out. For the guilt of our iniquity He must atone. And to atone means to satisfy the justice of God with respect to sin. And to satisfy that justice of God He must bring the sacrifice of perfect obedience, of the obedience of love. He must suffer all the agonies of hell, and in the suffering love God! . . . .

Still more.

The judgment of the world His death must be. The mask of hypocrisy, of self-righteousness and of a form and semblance of religion must be tom from the faces of men that hate God, and they must be exposed in all the horror of their corruption. They must answer the question: what will ye do with God, if He comes to you, not in all the majesty and glory of His power and holiness, but without form or comeliness, in the form of a servant, defenseless and helpless?

And thus He stands, in “the hour”!

Without power, either human or divine!

Gladly the disciples fight. But He bids them put up their swords and heals the wound struck by Peter. The enemy may not be able to point to scars, proofs of wounds inflicted on them in this conflict: the scars must all be His.

For legions of angels He might pray the Father. But He refuses. Alone, helpless, defenseless He will stand. For this is not a battle of power against power, or might against might; but of righteousness against the forces of iniquity.

And this is the offence of the “hour”!

Plainly the Lord had foretold them, that thus it would be. But they had never understood. The hour, they understood, would surely come. But in that hour, when the enemies would rise up against Him, He would consume them by the breath of His mouth, and reveal the glory of His power. . . .

And they also would fight!

With Him they were ready to go into death. . . . fighting!

But there was no manifestation of power!

And they were not permitted to fight!

Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled!

Scattered they were, each to his own!

Offending hour!

Alone, yet not alone!

Helpless, yet sustained in battle by the power of the Almighty!

For, thus the Lord declares: yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me!

It would appear different to the eyes of men. In the darkness of the hour the Father does not appear to be with Him! He does not help Him out, though He cries unto Him with bitter tears. Completely He surrenders Him to the fury of the enemies. They bind Him and lead Him away, they falsely accuse Him and condemn Him to death, they rail on Him, spit in His face and buffet Him, scourge Him and press the mock crown of thorns on His brow, nail Him to the accursed tree, fill Him with reproach and mock that God will not have Him. . . .

And He cries out: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Yet, through it all He is conscious that the Father is with Him. To Him He commits His righteous cause!

And through death and the resurrection He gained the victory!

And is justified!

Forever!