November 8, 2011

Hard Sayings XXIV: Sweat Like Blood

“And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” Luke 22:44 (cross-reference Hebrew 5:7)

Question: Was Jesus actually sweating drops of blood in this passage?

Thoughts: Immediately in this passage we are presented with an issue or question (1) Why is it that Luke’s account is the only one to mention Jesus’ sweat taking on this peculiar attribute? Luke having been a physician would’ve probably taken particular note of this bodily anomaly. Had it been real blood I believe Luke would’ve been able to determine this fact through some type of forensic type questioning. If the episode did give the appearance of blood it should’ve been noted by others, don’t you think?

Luke in this passage meticulously states the sweat was “like” drops of blood or “ὡσεὶ θρόμβοι αἵματος / hosei thromboi haimatos / as if clots of blood” but states nothing of the actual substance never having made a specific physical distinction.

It has been documented by modern medical science that under extreme duress or sufficient stimulus that there can be bloody discharge from the skin. This assures us through modern forensics of the possibility of such an occurrence. I believe these scientific illuminations are not necessary. I believe Luke's words are quite simple and naturally descriptive, and adequate to the occasion having been a physician. Being a doctor, he readily found a medical simile, and likened the drops of sweat just as Luke had made other medical analogies or comparisons in other passages.

Obviously, I do not want to separate Jesus’ experience from that which is quite ordinarily human. At the same time I do want to separate Him or at least delineate, as He is fully human but at the same time He has an ontological distinctness in His divinity. Yet I believe Luke is just being Luke here and God is letting Luke be Luke.

The phenomenon illustrated is obviously one which has special interest because it is like the passage in Matthew 3:16 where the Spirit descends “like” a dove. Was it a literal dove or something like a dove? Whether it applies as a visible appearance is uncertain. So what were these drops that fell from Jesus in a death struggle that would have Luke compare them to clots of blood? Is it possible that after praying the disciples witness a sweat drenched Jesus with beads of sweat still falling from His brow and this was not an normal occurrence and it is noted as such. A profusely sweating Messiah that I have been following would certainly attract my attention and leave a distinct impression or impact on me that would lead me to add emphasis to the gravity of the situation in recounting it. Especially because of the intensity of the discharge of perspiration and especially in hindsight knowing that right after this Jesus would be arrested and eventually murdered. We must remember Luke was trying to make an orderly account of things that had transpired among them.

It is my belief that the issue here is the size of the drops of sweat (like clots) not the color or consistancy. This session of praying was grueling. We see in the previous verse that and angel appears to strengthen Him. It is not often that we see angels minister to the Lord directly except in extreme situations like after 40 days of fasting in the wilderness which would've had Jesus near death. It is here that we see the cross reference come into play in Hebrews 5:7-8, "During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered..." which then leads to the Crucifixion soon after."

But then again, the text could be referring to hematidosis or subcutaneous capillaries dilating to the point of bursting under the skin due to stress. Blood combined with stress could've just as easily caused this phenomenon would then give the appearance of "sweating blood". Even a little bit of blood mixed with sweat would look way worse than it was.

Regardless, Jesus' agony, anguish and sweating, whether it was blood or not, was for us...the one's He came to save.


Child of God said...

Hello I am new here. Great post! I have never experienced this type of stress before but I have experienced severe stress that gave me a massive headache with the veins on my temples pounding. I cannot imagine the pain Jesus was going through in order to experience, 'sweat like drops of blood'. The temptation He was experiencing must have been very intense. I guess He was thinking about bearing the sins of the world. I cannot even make my mind go there, it would be to painful.

Enjoyed what you wrote.

Andy Pierson said...

Thank you so much for your kind words. If you would like to read other posts that relate to the medical field or the body I can direct you here, it is a theme I visit occasionally as we are all created by a living God and we are all the Body of Christ in the Church:

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