When Jesus and the disciples arrived in Gethsemane, Christ went from them a stone's throw distance, and Luke tells us that He fell to His knees to pray (Luke 22:41). Matthew tells us that at times His posture was that of lying down with His face to the ground in impassioned prayer:
37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." 39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:37-39).
The phrase "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" is very descriptive and leaves us wondering what was going on inside the soul of Jesus. Whatever Christ went through, the Lord described it as being so overwhelming as to bring Him close to death (v. 38). The intensity of the moment was so great that He begged for prayer support, saying to the disciples, “Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). Mark described Jesus as being “deeply distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33). The writer to the Hebrews also wrote about what Jesus went through in the garden, saying, “he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death” (Hebrews 5:7). The English King James Bible translates the same verse with the words: “He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears.” Luke described Jesus as: “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). The Greek word anguish is from where we get our English word agony and describes someone fighting a battle with sheer fear.
Jim Bishop, in his book The Day Christ Died, comments on the sweat of Jesus being like drops of blood:
“Medically, this is called haematidrosis. It occurs when fear is piled upon fear, when an agony of suffering is laid upon older suffering until the highly sensitized person can no longer sustain the pain. At that moment, the patient ordinarily loses consciousness. When that does not happen, the subcutaneous capillaries sometimes dilate so broadly that, when they come into contact with the sweat glands the little capillaries burst. The blood is exuded with the perspiration and, usually, this occurs all over the body.”
I read of this happening during the Second World War when Nazi Germany bombed London in what was known as the Blitz. The daily pressure of the bombing brought several cases where haematidrosis occurred. The fear was so stressful that it caused some people to sweat blood.
Some scholars interpret “his sweat to be like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44) to mean that Jesus wasn’t bleeding; He was just sweating so hard it was as if He were bleeding. They say that He could have been sweating from the energy of His fervent praying or because of stress. Christ’s Gethsemane experience happened over Passover, which falls in our calendar between March and April, which is usually cold in Jerusalem due to its location in the mountains. Later, Peter warmed himself by the fire in the courtyard of Caiaphas with those who arrested Jesus, so we know it was cold and unlikely just to be sweat; otherwise, why would blood be mentioned? Sweat would have been difficult to see in the moonlight at a stone's throw distance away, but when the Lord went to wake up the disciples, the reasoning is that it was then they noticed that He had been sweating. If it were blood, it would have been evident by the color of the Lord’s tunic when He came to the disciples. I leave you to decide which interpretation you find to be the most believable. This writer believes that the Scriptures mention drops of blood because He was sweating blood due to the extreme anguish and stress that He went through in the garden. Why is this so important? To keep it to a 3-4 minute read, let’s continue to think tomorrow of what caused Christ such anguish. Keith Thomas
If you can’t wait until tomorrow to think through what was happening to Jesus, you can go to the complete study 60 in Luke at the following link: Jesus at Gethsemane.
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