[Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.]Luke 22:43-44
We still need to address the question I put to you in Gem 1217: Did Jesus sweat blood or was His sweat just like blood?
In the last Gem I listed for you the issues related to the textual matters. To summarize, although some major manuscripts are missing these verses, the most notable of which are p75 (one of the oldest papyri, א (Codex Sinaiticus), A (Codex Alexandrinus) and B (Codex Vaticanus) there is enough documentary evidence in early manuscripts to attest that this reading is an ancient one. While its pedigree can be questioned, it is worthy of being noted in our Bibles, either footnoted or bracketed. There is widespread evidence in copies of the text of Luke and in the writings of the Church Fathers to suggest these verse were known and used in a wide variety of places from an early period in the text history.
In yesterday’s offerings I gave you evidence for the interpretation that Jesus really did sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. I must say it amuses me sometimes the lengths we Christians go to proving the scientific basis or reality of something. Even to the point of bordering on the ridiculous. It is like we can’t let it rest on a more normal interpretation but want it to be as scientific as possible. As I gathered the evidence for the case that Jesus did literally sweat blood I had to smile. “It must have been blood He sweat because I know a young man who experienced something like that.” “Yes and what about the governor of the garrison who feared death so much that he started to sweat blood.” “Yes and don’t forget what my aunt told me about a guy she knew who knew another guy in Timbuktu, West Africa whose uncle experienced that too.” It borders on the comical really. Why do we have to find some human with an experience like that of Jesus to prove that what is in the Bible is correct? When it comes to Jesus you have to be prepared to accept the extra-ordinary as well as the ordinary. Both are very real working possibilities.
Or better yet what about the possibility of snake bites. I have heard that if a certain snake bites you then the end result is something like Jesus experienced. Oh really, so He experienced a very painful death from a snake bite and not from the cross. Well I didn’t know that. Or what about the ‘brilliant’ thought Clotzius had that it arose from the angels comforting and strengthening him. Oh my goodness you have to watch those angels, they can be darn right dangerous. I don’t think I want to be comforted or strengthened by angels ever again. You never know what might happen. I guess I am influenced by the fact that I am working on the material for Deeper Bible which gives help as to what we do with the commentaries of the Bible that are available. Sometimes when I bother to look at a commentary I am surprised by the rubbish that is written in them which claims to be scholarship. Let’s stop for a moment and look at the other alternative available to us.
Notice what the text says: “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became LIKE drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” I hinted in the question that I asked you a couple of Gems ago: Did Jesus sweat blood or was His sweat just like blood? The idea being that He was sweating so profusely that His sweat was falling in such large droplets that it was as though His sweat was like clots of blood. Now that description suggests to us the kind of intense prayer that Jesus was involved in at that time. Have you ever sweated in prayer? I can’t claim to have had that experience. I have had some interesting experiences in prayer or in “the Spirit” but not to point of sweating blood-like droplets of sweat.
We sweat as part of our normal human physiology. There are a number of things that trigger the sweat glands into action. Physical exertion can do it as we all know. Extreme emotional stress can do it. So too can apprehension and tension. We can sweat because we have eaten a hot chilli. We can sweat from the tension of the unknown and of course we sweat when we are simply hot. But come on Ian, it is not likely that we would sweat from prayer. I can’t get my sweat glands around that one.
Well think about it. If indeed we sweat because of tension or extreme stress then of course Jesus would be a prime candidate for sweating at the thought of what lay ahead of him. If Thuanus’ governor or the young man from Florence could have a discharge of blood because of the tension they were under then it is perfectly possible for Jesus to sweat profusely at the thought of what was ahead of Him. His stress was not just physical or emotional. It was also likely to be spiritual, faced with separation from God the Father. I can tell you with certainty that it wasn’t from chillis. In fact Dr Luke tells us exactly why He was sweating. “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood”. There it is. It’s clear that whether what came out was blood or sweat, the reason was because of the agony and stress he endured and the fervency of His prayer.
Bear in mind too that this was the third time He had prayed. He had come and gone to prayer twice already before this last time. It seems the intensity of His prayer was building. Matthew recorded “He began to be grieved and distressed.” Mark wrote that “He began to be very distressed and troubled.” Notice both of these observations indicate this was the beginning of on going feelings. Jesus summation of it all is “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death”. Then Luke’s record tells us that in His agony and fervent prayer He was sweating large drops of blood-like fluid. That clearly indicates an escalation of stress. Little wonder. I suspect too that part of that stress is that in the hour of His need His inner circle let him down. In the very moment He needed them His team were not there for Him. That has to add a heap of stress. I will make that the focus of the Gem for tomorrow. That and the sleeping.
I smiled when yesterday midday I received an email my Bible College Principal with comments related to the fact that I had focused on the supposed fact Jesus secreted blood. David’s suggestion or query was, isn’t it also possible He just simply sweated blood-like droplets of sweat? Yes, of course it is, isn’t that in fact what the plain language of the text tells us? Sometimes we humans are prone to go for the harder, more complicated interpretation when the simple one will suffice. Keep it simple Simon. (Better to use Simon as the focus than the word which normally belongs there.) I always planned to write this follow up Gemz but now even more so when I get a prompting from you, David. David wrote to me reminding me the word [osei] is a preposition introducing an adjectival clause as a simile, like our English “like” or “as”. Sleeping like a baby . . . as cool as a cucumber . . . skin like a rose petal. In all of these examples we have to know what the point of comparison is. I smile when people say they slept like a baby. What they mean is that they slept like a log – I.e. they had an undisturbed sleep. But logs don’t sleep, they are not animate objects and babies wake up every few hours, crying and demanding a feed. What was it about the sweat droplets of Jesus which was likened to blood? Was it the size of the droplets? Was it the viscosity or was it the colour? I don’t know but whatever it was, it was remarkable.
It seems Jesus prayed and then He prayed fervently. Are there different levels of prayer? The simple answer is yes. I won’t make this Gem much longer than it already is but I will draw your attention to the six Gems I wrote on Ephesians 6:18. I have provided links to them on the website in case you are interested.
Gem 716 – Pray in the Spirit at all times
Gem 717 – Praying always” all the time”
Gem 718 – Praying in the Spirit
Gem 719 – With every kind of prayer
Gem 720 – Other elements to note
Gem 721 – Watch out for your mate
It’s better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without heart.Mahatma Gandhi
The best thing to ask of God in prayer is what you should ask of God in prayer.Phillip Nation
Jesus immersed His words and work in prayer. Powerful things happen when we do the same.Max Lucado
The church ought to be prayer conditioned; so too should your life (but it may not stop you sweating).Ian Vail