29 April 2018
Text: Luke 22:47-53
Theme: Christ, our “Superhero”
Background of Text
Our scripture reading tonight comes from Luke 22:47-53. Before we read this, it is important for us to know something of the background and context of this text so that we may understand in which situation this letter was written. This will help us understand what we read in the text better when we read it. Even though Luke was not present during Jesus’ earthly Ministry, and probably only came to believe in Him after His resurrection and ascending to heaven (the same as Paul), his words about Jesus are words of someone who knew the life of Jesus, words that are inspired by the Holy Spirit. We see it especially in his focus on the healing action of Jesus, He who brings healing where illness, brokenness and unrighteousness have gotten the upper hand. In the part that precedes Luke 22:47-53, Jesus comes to his father in pray to ask Him to take the cup away from him, still knowing that God’s will is the only and best for the way forward. That He will strengthen Jesus, almost heal Him, in his weakness. What is further interesting is what happens after Jesus finished praying. He went back to His disciples and asked them why they are sleeping, for if they sleep they will fall into temptation. They must pray to the Lord that they may act according to His will and not according to their own thoughts and feelings. And it is here where we pick up the story, where Jesus was warning his disciples to not be caught napping… Let’s read together from verse 47…
Luke 22:47-53 – Jesus Arrested
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.”
A last healing action within iniquity. A final act of love within a time of anger and uncertainty. A trust in God in spite of imprisonment. This is the person of Jesus that Luke wants to convey to us in Luke 22:47-53. A image of someone who rather choses peace and unity above enmity and darkness. In the time in which these events takes place, Jesus is prosecuted and taken hostage, not because He has done something wrong, but simply because He is different, because he is the truth of the Word manifested in a way that was awkward, challenging that which they knew and thought to be the truth. Even one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas, betrays him by kissing him. Jesus asks him in verse 48 “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Judas choses money, earthly riches, above his Teacher, because He became frightened and allowed doubt to rule His life. Because he has stopped trusting in God who provides in his life. And then this action of injustice, committed by both Judas and the Romans who were with him, brought the other disciples who were with Jesus to violence. They ask Him in verse 49 ” Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And then they respond, even before Jesus could give a reply in verse 50 “And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.” They ask the question almost as if they need confirmation from Jesus to continue, but then we see that they knew what was happening before them, they knew that injustice was taking place before their eyes and they try to be heroes because of this They try to “protect” Jesus with violence. But protection is not possible in the presence of violence.
They want to reciprocate injustice with more injustice. They choose to trust in that which is against Jesus’ teachings of healing, peace and love. What is against love for their enemies, and instead the behavior of a criminal. But Jesus would not have it, because the disciples should not be like the priest, the temple guard or the elders who are against him. He asks in verse 52 “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?” He ask this question to show the invalidity, the wrong, of their behavior. To show that violence cannot make things better, it can only make things worse.
Jesus chooses to respond with grace, love, compassion and peace. He didn’t lift his hand to attack those who wanted to capture him, but he lift his hand to heal. Verse 51 “And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.” Luke brings who Jesus is, son of God, Savior and Healer, for the last time before his crucifixion to the fore. He who comes to meet His enemy with love, relies on God’s will for his life, and he comes to make healing possible through it. He also says in verse 51, “No more of this!” No more fighting! Stop accusing each other and rather start showing something of God’s love to one another. Is it not then Jesus’s actions that depicts that of a real “Superhero”?
We all have surely seen a Superman, Spiderman, or a Wonder-woman movie or read a book on these superhero’s? (who of you have?) And in it we see something of someone who is trying to make the world a better place. That tries to do good in order to take away that which is evil. And therefore we also find that when media or television speak of “superhero’s”, Jesus is seen as part of this group. He is seen as someone who chooses the good over that which is evil. Who chooses justice above iniquity. But you know what? It’s all very well, we can say this and we can see it, but Jesus is not a Superman, a Spiderman, or a Wonder-woman.
He is not a drawing or a story in a book that brings us to a fantasy-world. That makes us wish for a world of which we can only dream and cannot be part of. No. He is the truth! He is real! He is God and man. He is Healer and one who is righteous. He lives in each of us, every day through his Spirit and he makes us part of who he is, not because we are so great, but by his grace and love. He comes to meet you and me in our deepest distress. He comes to embrace us when the earthly things start to dominate our lives and He lead us to justice above the injustices of this world.
To choose justice above injustice might be a “superhero’s” label. This may be what is expected of a “superhero” in his or her actions. But how can justice be done when there is being kicked and beaten. When the worst is said about one another. How can justice be done when there is being hurt and even killed in response to injustices. Is it really what we regarded as “superhero’s”? Is it really the category in which we as people place our Lord Jesus Christ? How can we read Luke 22:47-53 and not ask ourselves what a true hero looks like?
Jesus comes in Luke 22 and he shows us that love and a deep trust in God is all that really brings liberation in our lives. That the “hour when darkness reigns” that verse 53 talks about must not be met by the sword, because it only causes more pain and further injustice. The disciples may not have fully understood it then, but we who are here today, who knows the story of Jesus’s suffering on the cross and his resurrection, we can with certainty say that Jesus’ love and mercy brought the victory over the death for each and every one of us. That it brought healing to us and enabled us to be able to respond.
The word for “superhero” in modern Greek is υπερήρωα. And when we break the word up we get υπερ, that can be translated as “more than” and ήρωα, that translates as “hero”. And for me, when this word is broken up, it bears a much deeper meaning than when it is used as normal. In the use of these words separately, the message that God wants to share with us from Luke 22:47-53 clearly emerges. A lot of the time we are just like Judas and the Romans with him here. We choose earthly wealth above other things because it is the safer, easier, less challenging option. We allow our identity in Christ to become lost, we become negative when there are strikes for better salaries, better working conditions. We become negative when we read of more money just disappearing. Of another murder, another attack, another disease, more iniquity that takes place. We struggle to “protect” the Lord in this world and then we become like the disciples in Luke 22. We take our swords and we start swinging and attacking because we can no longer endure another act of injustice.
But dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus wants to tell me and you tonight that we must stop struggling and let our hearts settle. That we don’t have to be the hero or hope for a “superhero” that we read about in books and encounter in movies, because Jesus is the true “more than hero”. He is the one that learns us to love each other, and to trust in God’s will for our lives. He is the one that has already come to save us and whose grace is with us every day. He is our true “Superhero”, the one who walks with us in times of darkness, theft, hunger, drought, murder, unrighteousness, and disease. And he doesn’t do it with a lot of noise or violence. No, he does it with peace, trust and love. He chooses life above death. He is the life above death. To know him, and to follow His example is to bring healing, recovery, and righteousness in a world fulled with sin.
Christ is our “Superhero” not because He fights our enemies, but because he came to suffer for us by his great love for us, and through that brought freedom and unity for us with the triune God. Christ is like the Greek tells us “more than just a hero”. He is God, the Creator, Maintainer, Healer, and Savior of His creation. He lets justice be done by bringing healing, through touching his enemies and loving them with the same love as he loves those closest to him. Christ is our true “Superhero”, the one that brings us to witness and to a life of righteousness. To be led by his word, and to show love to those with us as well as to our enemies, is to follow His example.
The hour when darkness reigns of which the last part of verse 53 talks about is important because it points to the reality of unrighteousness that will be brought to the light when Jesus Christ’s resurrection, and his raising up to the Father is complete. Because of this we can also persevere even in times of misfortune, because Christ, our true “Superhero”, his light is with us every day no matter where we find ourselves.
We can think of Christ’s “superpower” as a dark room full of candles that are not lit. And when we spend time with others rather than saying “sorry, I’m too busy now to spend time with you”, then we light one of those candles. When we pray for each other and for our country, rather than staring ourselves blind against all that is wrong and all that looks hopeless, then we light another candle. When we treat each other with love, respect, kindness and grace even when we make mistakes or even if we are “different” from what the world sees as “normal”, then we light another candle. And so, as we follow Christ’s example of love, healing, caring and forgiveness more and more in our lives, more and more candles are lit, and suddenly the dark room filled with candles, turns into a bright room full of hope.
May you praise the Lord every day from today as the true “Superhero” in your life. As the one that even overcomes the enemies and obstacles in our lives with his love. May you testify of His greatness and love in your life that overcomes even when it seems impossible. He wants us to choose justice above injustice in this world. To make the reality of His Kingdom a reality in our lives already today. We must stop fighting with the sword and start trusting in God’s will for our lives. That is the reality and truth of Jesus Christ’s being ever present in and through our lives according to Luke 22:47-53. Amen.