Queen Mary I took the throne of England in July of 1553. She was the only adult child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon that survived into adulthood. Mary helped to restore Roman Catholicism as the religion of England after her brother Edward’s short-lived reign of Protestantism. During her five year reign, Mary oversaw the execution of 280 religious dissenters which earned her the nickname Bloody Mary by the English Protestants. Her first arrest and sentencing was of the Protestant Pastor John Rogers.
Rogers received the unfinished work of William Tyndale before his arrest a few years earlier and published the first full English Bible under the penname Thomas Matthews in 1537. Rogers boldly preached against Roman Catholicism and heralded the doctrine of salvation through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. He was arrested for preaching against the Church of Rome and denying the physical presence of the body of Christ at communion. On January 29th, 1555 John Rogers was sentenced to death for his belief of salvation through Christ alone. The hour of Rogers’ death came and he was given one last chance to recant to experience mercy. His hour had come. His wife with ten of his eleven children looked on. What would he do? Was he ready for his hour of darkness? Would you have been ready?
Rogers did not have to deny the divinity of Christ or the virgin birth. He did not have to deny the resurrection or Christ’s miracles. What was the big deal? I would argue Rogers’ decision on that faithful day on 4th of February 1555 would be as important as those who surrounded Jesus in the garden before his death. Rogers’ decision to affirm or deny the Reformation mantra of sola fide (faith alone) would have implications for the very gospel itself. Was Rogers ready when his hour came? Are you ready for when your hour of darkness comes?
Are you Ready for your Hour of Darkness?
After Jesus finished praying in the Garden, he was encouraging his disciples to be ready for the coming temptation. It appears that Jesus was cut off mid-sentence, for (verse 47) “While he was still speaking, there came a crowd.” The scene is full of hypocrisy. As we examine the characters of the scene, I want you to ask yourself, to which character can you relate? Verse 47 and following,
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
The first person we encounter is Jesus’ former trust friend Judas Iscariot.
Even here Luke continues to address Judas as one of the twelve, yet another reminder that being close to Jesus is not the same as trusting him. Being connected to a church family is not the same as being a true part of the church family. 2 Timothy 2:19, “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Lord depart from iniquity.” The one who should have been leading people to honor the Lord was leading people to betray the Lord. Judas drew near to Jesus to kiss him. Judas used his intimacy to betray his friend. And Jesus reminded him of the magnitude of his decision with a question, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Jesus is reminding him that He is not merely his teacher, but the Sovereign Christ, the Promised Messiah. Judas was not ready for his hour of darkness; are you ready?
The rest of the twelve disciples were there with Jesus in the garden. They had already been warned that this day was coming. Jesus told them that he would be betrayed, handed over and crucified. And yet, the disciples did not get it. Verse 49, “And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.” We know from John’s Gospel that it was Peter who grabbed the sword and stepped up to defend Jesus. It is interesting that they ask the question of the Lord, but do not wait for a response. I wonder how many of us do the same.
We, like Abraham, know God’s promise of deliverance and chose to make Hagar-like decisions by taking matters into our own hands. How many times do we doubt God’s goodness because his timing is slower than ours? How many times do ask God for help, but do not want for his answer? Beloved, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” The disciples were not ready for their hour of darkness; are you ready?
Jesus corrects Peter’s mistake and in so doing further indicts the third group in the garden. Verses 51--53,
But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, ‘Have you come out as against a robber with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
The irony is hard to miss. They approached Jesus as a robber with swords and clubs in secrecy under the cover of night while Jesus has publicly stated his case day after day in temple courts. It is clear that Jesus is not a robber or a rebel, but the divine Son of Man. He has not only demonstrated his power in his wisdom in the temple courts, but in healing the ear of the soldier. Jesus gives them even more evidence that he was the Son of Man, but they refused to see. They were blinded by the power of darkness.
Greater revelation will bring greater condemnation. The more we know of Christ, the higher the standard to which we are held. We have different expectations for someone on day one of their job than on year ten. The chief priests, the officers of the temple, and the elders would have been held to a higher standard because of their acquaintance with the Scriptures. They should have known better, but Jesus gives them one more chance to see his divinity by showing them a healing before their very eyes. John tells us that when the chief priests and elders claimed they were seeking Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus responded with the Greek, “Ego Eimi” I am. And at the declaration of words spoken to Moses in the burning bush, the people fell to the ground at the power of his word. They should have known better, but they were not ready for the hour of darkness; are you?
The reality is that if we were in the garden that night, we would not have been ready. There was only one ready in the Garden that night and that was Jesus Christ. Jesus had submitted to the Father’s will and was ready to take the cup. In his hour of darkness, Jesus was in total control. He did not flinch when one of the twelve betrayed him with a kiss. He did not flinch calling one of his inner-circle to lay down the sword. He did not flinch to restore a man to full health that was sent to arrest and beat him. He did not flinch to declare his identity to a group of blind teachers. He did not flinch because his whole earthly life was about this hour.
Jesus took on flesh and blood so that through his death he might destroy the one who has power over death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Heb. 2:14). Jesus was ready for his hour. The darkest day in human history was beginning. The sinless Son of God was going to be made sin so that anyone who would trust in Him would become the righteousness of God. Beloved, only Jesus would have been ready that day!! And yet, the beauty is that because Jesus was ready when his hour came, he gives us hope to overcome the darkness. Jesus allowed the darkness to win that night. He allowed the power of darkness to have their day.
And even as the day of darkness begins, it should be clear that the darkness is not ultimately in control. There is only One who is really in control. The Sovereign Lord of lords and the King of kings was ready to let darkness temporarily outshine the light so that the light would completely snuff out the darkness. Jesus would be victorious, but his victory could only become our victory if he willingly suffered and died in our place. He had to let the darkness take him to deliver us from that darkness. And as he has delivered us from that darkness, he will continue to strengthen us in the midst of the darkness, Colossians 1:11-14,
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus was ready when the hour came so we would be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience.
We are now ready because Jesus has freed us from the fear of death. Jesus allowed darkness to take his life so that God would demonstrate his power by giving it back in the resurrection. Jesus died and rose again: conquering the grave, offering us redemption through his blood. Beloved, our hour is coming. The hour of darkness will befall us all, will we be ready? The only way we will be ready is if, we are in the Son. The only way we will be ready to meet God is if we know God through his Son, Jesus Christ. Are you ready? Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
Are you Ready for your Hour of Denial?
Jesus is led away to the house of the high priest with Peter following at a distance. We do not have the time to analyze every detail of this scene, but notice that Peter wanted to stand up for Jesus. He wanted to stand up for Jesus in the Upper Room during the Last Supper. He wanted to stand up for Jesus in the Garden with a sword. And he wanted to stand up for Jesus in the courtyard with his presence. His spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak. Verse 54,
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. (Luke 22:54-60)
Peter denies Jesus three times. He was not ready….yet. Each of Peter’s denial continued to increase in its intensity with in his final denial he invoked a curse upon himself if he knew Jesus. And while Peter was denying Christ, the rooster crowed bringing to mind the words of Christ, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Peter denied knowing Jesus. He chose to align himself with the world rather the Savior of the world.
This is probably one of the darkest moments in Peter’s life, but it was also one of the most gracious. I am sure many of you have heard stories charging us not to deny Christ as Peter did in that courtyard (and of course we should not deny Christ), but I believe Peter’s denial was a gift for him and for us. Verse 61, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” The gaze of the Lord Jesus penetrated Peter’s heart. And as the Lord looked at Peter, Peter remembered his sin. Jesus was exposing Peter’s sin with his look. The holy gaze of God Incarnate penetrated and broke down Peter’s trust in his flesh. And it was an act of sovereign mercy.
Peter trusted in his flesh. Peter strongly trusted in his flesh so God had to break him down of that trust. God allowed Peter to trust in his flesh only to fail so that Christ would look on Him with mercy. Jesus had already told Peter this was going to happen, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. When you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Peter failed, but his failure was to lead to his redemption. How did Peter respond to his failure? He went out and wept bitterly. Peter was broken over his sin so he would turn to his Savior. The penetrating look of Christ and the awareness of his sin was a gift to Peter. It was a gift to Peter because it stripped him of his pride. It exposed his desperate need for Christ.
And his failure is a gift to us. It is a picture of the failure of human pride. The flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak. We will not be ready for our hour if we trust in the flesh, but when our hour of denial comes will we be ready? We all will have our hours of denials. We will have moments when our sin is exposed and we will be confronted with a choice. Will we hide our sin or will we weep over it? Will we ignore it or will we acknowledge it? Peter was exposed and wept bitterly. He grieved and mourned over his sin. Jesus said, “Blessed is he who mourns, for he will be comforted.” Peter was blessed because he wept bitterly over his sin.
The doorway to Christ will always come first through weeping. We must recognize and confess our sin to God. It is godly grief over our sin that leads us to repentance. We should rejoice in godly grief over our sin as Paul does for the Corinthians, “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). A godly grief over your sin should make you run to the Savior! Will you be ready when your hour of denial comes? It will come; will you trust in Christ to save you from your body of flesh?
On February 4th, 1555 John Rogers had choice to make. He was tied to the stake and about to be burned when he was given one last chance to recant. He could go free and embrace his children, one in whom he never had the pleasure to hold because of his imprisonment. Rogers was simply asked to acknowledge the doctrine of the Church of Rome, but Rogers knew that doing so would be trusting in the flesh. The Church of Rome had lost their way. They were grasping onto their flesh like Peter did in that courtyard. They were trusting in their works for salvation. Rogers had already renounced his trust in the flesh and held fast to his salvation through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. According to Fox’s book of Martyrs,
Now when the time came, that he, being delivered to the sheriffs, should be brought out of Newgate to Smithfield, the place of his execution, first came to him Master Woodroofe, one of the aforesaid sheriffs, and calling Master Rogers unto him, asked him if he would revoke his abominable doctrine, and his evil opinion of the sacrament of the altar. Master Rogers answered and said, "That which I have preached I will seal with my blood." "Then," quoth Master Woodroofe, "thou art a heretic." "That shall be known," quoth Rogers, "at the day of judgment”…[T]he fire was put unto him; and when it had taken hold both upon his legs and shoulders, he, as one feeling no smart, washed his hands in the flame, as though it had been in cold water. And, after lifting up his hands unto heaven, not removing the same until such time as the devouring fire had consumed them -- most mildly this happy martyr yielded up his spirit into the hands of his heavenly Father.
It has been said that the crowd, along with his children, supported him in such a manner that “it seemed as if he had been led to a wedding rather than an execution.” We know that for Rogers he was led to a wedding feast. On February 4th, 1555 Rogers was blessed to have received the invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb, for he did not trust in his flesh, but in the blood of Savior.
Beloved, when your hour comes, will you be ready? Will you trust in Christ alone or will you hold out some hope in your flesh? We can be ready, but only if we trust Jesus who was ready for us. Be ready for your hour; cling to Christ and live.