Jesus Overwhelmed with Sorrow


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 one 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 quite a descriptive phrase and leaves us wondering what was going on inside His soul. Whatever it was that He was going through, Jesus 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 Jesus 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” (v. 44). The Greek word translated anguish is where we get our English word agony. The Greek word is used in terms of someone fighting a battle with sheer fear.[1]

Jim Bishop, in his book The Day Christ Died, comments on his sweat 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 an 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.”[2]

I have read of this happening during the Second World War when Germany was bombing London in what was known as the Blitz. The daily pressure of the bombing brought a number of cases where this occurred. The stress of fear was so great, that it caused some people to literally sweat blood.

There are some scholars that interpret this verse to mean: “his sweat was like drops of blood,” and that He didn’t actually bleed. They reason that Jesus was sweating so hard, it was as if He were bleeding. They say that He could have been sweating from the energy of His impassioned praying or because of stress. Passover falls in our calendar between the months of March and April, and it is usually cold in Jerusalem due to being situated higher in the mountains. Later on, Peter had warmed himself by the fire with those that had arrested Jesus in the courtyard of Caiaphas. If it was just sweat, why would blood be mentioned? This would have been difficult to see in the moonlight at a stone’s throw distance away, but when the Lord came to wake up the disciples, perhaps then they noticed that He had been sweating. If it were blood, it would have been evident by the color of His tunic when He came near. I leave you to decide which interpretation you find to be the most believable. Personally, I think that the Scriptures mention drops of blood because He was literally sweating blood, due to the extreme anguish and stress that He was going through in the garden. To keep it to a 3-4 minute read, let’s continue tomorrow. Keith Thomas

If you can’t wait until tomorrow to think through what was happening to Jesus you can go to the more complete study 60 in Luke at the following link: Jesus at Gethsemane.

[1] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of Luke, Saint Andrew Press Publishers, Edinburgh, Page 271. [2] The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop. Harper San Francisco Publishers. Page 169.