Luke 22:44 - Sweat as Blood
And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.Luke 22:44b
According to the text of Luke in the NKJV, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane sweated so profusely that His sweat resembled great drops of blood. Or, as another translation renders the passage: His sweat “resembled clots of blood falling on the ground”. For our part, we are adequately familiar with sweat to realise that this episode in the Garden of Gethsemane is uncommon, to say the least. I for one cannot recall seeing sweat fall from a person as blood drips from a bleeding nose. That raises the question then: why did Jesus sweat so profusely?
According to the first part of vs 44, the answer lies in the fact that Jesus was “in agony”. Such was Jesus’ anxiety that He broke out into a sweat. For our part, that's something we can relate too; how many are the young people who, when they enter the consistory room seeking to make profession of the faith, break out into a cold sweat!
Still, the question remains why it might be that Jesus sweated such quantities that His sweat dropped off His face the size of clods of blood?? What we have here is an indication of the intensity of the wrath of God on sin.
Jesus knew the Scriptures. He knew that the Holy Spirit had moved the prophet Nahum to picture God’s anger as follows:
Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him.Nahum 1:6
He knew also what Jeremiah had said:
At His wrath the earth will tremble. And the nations will not be able to abide His indignation.Jeremiah 10:10
He knew it: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31), for “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).
In the Garden of Gethsemene so long ago, Jesus knew that ahead of Him lay the infinite wrath of holy God, and Jesus’ response was one of agony, of anguish, of inner torment. Jesus Christ understood perfectly what the Scriptures said about God’s wrath, and so the thought of what lay ahead pressed out of Him sweat the size of drops of blood. He understood: woe was Him! To face the wrath of God, to have that awful, holy anger poured out on Him – ‘Who can stand before His indignation?” Woe, woe, woe was He!
For our part, we do well to realise that we deserve this wrath ourselves. In the words of the Catechism:
(God) is terribly displeased with our ... sins. Therefore He will punish them ... with the most severe, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul (LD 4).
It is we who ought to fall into the hands of the living God, that God who is a consuming fire ... It is we upon whom ought to fall that wrath that makes the earth itself tremble! Truly, woe is us! “Who can stand before His indignation?! And who can endure the fierceness of His anger?!” Talk about reason for us to break out into a cold sweat! Woe is us!!
But precisely this is the glorious gospel of Good Friday: though I, on account of my sins, have every reason to break out into a sweat like I’ve never sweated before, though I ought to expect God’s fierce anger to fall upon me, God was pleased to pour out the anger I deserve on Another! On the cross was poured onto Jesus Christ the wrath I deserved, so that I might never experience that wrath! In the Garden Christ had cause to tremble before God like no one else ever did, so that I might freely come into God’s presence, without fear (Hebrews 10:19ff). In the words of the Lord’s Supper Form:
He bore for us the wrath of God, under which we should have perished eternally ... especially when the weight of our sins and the wrath of God pressed out of Him the bloody sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Note that: He bore that wrath of God for us! His sweat, His fear, is our salvation!
It all comes down to this: we can talk a long time about what Good Friday was really all about, and marvel much at Christ’s work on our behalf too. But we won’t appreciate the miracle of Good Friday until and unless we understand something of the magnitude of the wrath that was awaiting us. Once we realise how great the wrath of God really is, once we realise what was hanging over our heads, then and only then will we appreciate something of the miracle of Good Friday.
Infinite wrath – poured out on Christ instead of on me: how delightfully marvellous!