I hope you’ll forgive me for today’s gimmicky title, when our subject matter is anything but.
For me it was in the garden, He prayed: ‘Not my will, but Thine.’
He had no tears for His own griefs, but sweat drops of blood for mine.
Those lines, taken from the classic 1905 hymn I Stand Amazed by Charles H. Gabriel, are powerful, and they’re a great reminder of a detail that we tend, understandably, to bypass.
(As you’ll see below, I beg to differ with Gabriel on the ‘He had no tears for His own griefs’ part, but let’s call that artistic licence and let the rest of the text speak for itself.)
There’s just so much going on in the Maundy Thursday narrative – prophecies about betrayal and denial, the Last Supper itself, the foot-washing, Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the events of Jesus’ arrest – that preachers simply can’t hope to illuminate every significant detail of the story, even over the course of several years’ worth of sermons.
Therefore, it’s understandable that we don’t take much note of the fact that in Luke 22:39-44, it says Jesus’ perspiration was ‘like drops of blood falling to the ground.’
But I think we can learn a bit about our Saviour and what He went through for us by taking a closer look, so let’s take a bit of time to reflect on this part of the story.
First of all, that sounds like a lot of sweat. And since these events happened during the night, it’s unlikely that the perspiration had much to do with temperature. Now, I’ve broken a sweat due to stress in my time, but rarely has it been of sufficient volume to form drops that dripped down and hit the ground.
So any illusions we might have that Jesus was some sort of detached demigod who wasn’t really fazed by his imminent torture and murder are quickly dispelled. He was freaking out. In despair. Scared spitless.
In fact, Luke uses the word ‘anguished’ in the New International Version here, and words like ‘agony’ and ‘pain’ appear in this passage in other translations. And Luke – himself a physician, don’t forget – is the only Gospel writer to refer to Jesus’ sweat being ‘like blood‘ in this moment.
According to Wikipedia, blood sweat (Hematidrosis) is a bona fide – but rare – medical phenomenon that is believed to be caused by extreme stress, so Luke probably wasn’t using hyperbole here.
‘We can conclude quite justifiably that the terminology used by the gospel writer to refer to the severe mental distress experienced by Jesus was intended to taken literally—i.e., that the sweat of Jesus became bloody,’ wrote Dave Miller PhD. in this Apologetics Press article.
Think about that, folks: Jesus was so distressed about what was about to happen to Him that he sweat blood.
And He had plenty to despair about – in both the material and heavenly reality.
Jesus the man was about to endure immense pain and suffering at the hands of His enemies, with no support from his friends and followers.
And Jesus the God was about to take the crushing weight of the sins of the entire world, for all time, onto His shoulders. And as a result, He was about to experience for the first time the feeling of complete abandonment by God. Remember that 33 years and nine months earlier, Jesus had known only the perfect, united community of the Trinity. And even during His earthly life, the Bible makes it pretty clear that He never experienced a moment without the reassuring presence of His Father.
‘And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”’ – Matthew 27:46 (NKJV)
Or, as Charles H. Gabriel concludes the hymn:
He took my sins and my sorrows. He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered and died alone.
So you never have to be.
Peace be with you.
† † †