“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
While this passage is often misquoted or represented as “his sweat became drops of blood…”, as always, we can allow the Word of God to represent himself perfectly. In every translation, it reads “like” or “as” or “as it were” drops of blood..
But while the idea of Jesus actually sweating blood may be compelling to some, it makes no physical sense (it would indicate an extreme medical condition) and detracts from the understanding of what Jesus was going through.
In reading, and studying, John Eldredge’s The Beautiful Outlaw, one can really see Jesus for who he is, the Son of God alive in a human body. While wholly God, he intentionally bound himself in the confines of a young man’s body, one that came with the whole package of humanity; a package that came with the same ingredients as the rest of us.
When we see the situations that Jesus gave himself to, we often see him as “Jesus” just doing his thing. Waving his hand, saying a few words, healing, going from place to place, etc. But understanding the waves of emotions he would continually endure, such as pain, heartache, death of a loved one, scorn, joy, friendship, laughter — we see that Jesus became a man so that he could experience all of the things we do, especially temptation.
Because God invented and experienced all of these emotions, except probably pain and death (at least not from a human perspective), how better to connect with humanity than by joining it? But he had to go “all in.” Any half-hearted attempt would have been useless for everyone. But God doesn’t do anything half-hearted. He is fully committed to us whatever the cost.
So God became man, and Jesus takes human form to enjoy the good things of life, demonstrate love to others, and endure pain, hardship and death.
Because he lived as a man, he lived connected to the Father, but didn’t stand in God’s presence as he once had. He had to do all the things that a man must do to be connected to the Father. And while he did, life happened all around him. Life happened to him.
His adopted father, Joseph, who had raised him and taught him a tradeand loved himlikely died at some point before Jesus began his ministry. Jesus lived as a man for 33 years, and during his lifetime, it’s likely he saw and experienced as much as you and I did our first 33 years.
The Bible also leads us to believe that Jesus wasn’t fully aware of his place in the universe growing up, much like Superman, despite how many artists’ renderings suggest. While, at the age of 12, he makes comment to being “in his father’s house”, he may very likely only had occasional “revelations” as to his purpose and relationship to God, up until his Father felt it was time for him to begin his ministry.
In this way, Jesus may have been given “visions” of his own death, but those details may not have come until that time became near, as we see represented in the gospels.
Anyway, Jesus had all these life experiences, struggles, heartache and pain, while also surely experiencing joy, playfulness, laughter and teasing (he had a lot of brothers and sisters). He had lots of emotional experiences with which to form his human desires, just as you and me.
This brings a great deal of significance to the temptations of Christ. Many assume that when Jesus was tempted, he just brushed it away, as he did in the desert when confronting Satan
The same temptations of lust, laziness, selfishness, envy, etc. would have been present to Jesus too. Why are we so quick to assume that it was so much easier for him to resist these temptations? It wasn’t. It couldn’t have been. He was a man, and all the more so. This isn’t blasphemy, this is what God wants us to understand! He had to be confronted with these things daily.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we areyet he did not sin.”
But it was through his connection with the Father, as he gave so many demonstrations, that he was able to gain victory over those temptations time and time again.
And this brings us back to the garden of Gethsemane and that fateful early morning.
This temptation was the “big one.” He was tempted to bail out on the whole thing. Why? Because he was human! He didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to suffer, and be separated from his best friends… he loved them and didn’t want to go.
There, in the garden, he was just a man, as close to God as he could be, through prayer. Intense and exhaustive prayer. He didn’t want to go through with it. He was trying to talk himself out of it. He was praying to God, hoping God would bail him out! But God wasn’t answering him. There’s not even a mild suggestion that God spoke a word to him.
So Jesus stopped praying, and crying I’m sure, and went to go check on his friends. Jesus may have decided to bail on the whole thing (I’m speculating, of course, but it’s possible). But when he saw his friends sleeping, he became overwhelmed with the emotion of his cowardly decision and went back to pray some more.
Not satisfied with the answer he came up with himself, he tried desperately to seek God’s will. He cried out for God to just come right out and say “YOU MUST DO IT!” Give him some verbal reassurance and so on. But instead… nothing. So Jesus gets up and walks away again.
But the third time, full of anxiety in trying to justify his desire not to go through with the whole thing, he returns to God in prayer. This internal battle is so severe (and if you remember this scene from the “Passion of the Christ” when we see Satan lurking in the shadows), that Jesus is racked with sweat. He is terrified and unsure. God has shown him what will take place, and Jesus just doesn’t want to.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going 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.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
Then he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
But God does answer him:
He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
God does reassure him and strengthen his resolve for the task. And now Jesus is ready to save the world!
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
But I can tell you this. I have never struggled with temptation so greatly that I dropped to my knees, let alone literally sweat over it. I always cave in long before I get to that point.
Thank you, Jesus, for not being me!