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God’s Word for You

Luke 22:44 drops of blood

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 9, 2019

We discussed the manuscript evidence for this verse along with verse 43.

44 And being in agony, he prayed even more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

“Agony” (ἀγωνία) is a term used in Greek both in combat and in medicine. In medicine, it can stand for the last struggle of life in which there is a great change in a person, loss of voice, ceasing of motion, rattling of the breath, dryness of the tongue, coldness of the extremities, etc. (Galen). But “agony” can also mean a man’s struggle to bring about a painful act to its completion, as with the passing of a kidney stone. As a military term, “agony” is also concern for an impending battle: “Those who had to remain in the city were in no little distress, being anxious (“in agony”) over the encounter in the open country” (2 Maccabees 15:19). And again: “There was no little distress (ἀγωνία) throughout the whole city. The priests prostrated themselves before the altar in their priestly garments and called toward heaven upon him who had given the law…” (2 Maccabees 3:14-15).

Here, while we might anticipate Luke using a word in its medical sense, it seems better to take “agony” in its military sense, the anticipation of a tremendous struggle ahead and the internal, emotional condition of what today we call “psyching ourselves up.”

When Jesus returned to his disciples, they noticed that he was sweating, which is easy to understand considering the strain he was under. But along with the sweat was blood, rolling from his skin in “clots” (θρόμβoι). Some of his blood vessels in or near the skin had ruptured as he strained in prayer (something called hematidrosis), and now he was bleeding as he was sweating in a noticeable, unique way.

Was Jesus already suffering the agony of hell at this time? Not yet. We are told: “He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:7).

Which of us could ever say with certainty everything that was involved in Jesus’ agony and struggle? Dare we say that he was tempted? Would anyone dare to doubt that he was not concerned and consumed with a desire to fulfill his task perfectly? When I am tempted, I know that I might slip and fall into sin. I often do. Nothing I do is ever completely untainted by sin in some way. But Jesus? He could not slip in any way, not one single shadow of failing or falling could cloud his steps to the cross. He was burdened with all of our sins, and yet he still had to accomplish his task free of any sin of his own.

A modern liberal theologian might try to ignore this act on the part of our Lord. He might say, “Scripture never speaks of God as one who has to be satisfied or propitiated before being merciful or forgiving” (Braaten and Jenson, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 2, p. 15). Just a sentence before this, that same modern liberal theologian said that such a teaching has “little support in the Scriptures,” but how boldly he takes the step from “little support” to “Scripture never speaks”! Does the Bible ever speak of the necessity of the atonement? Daniel says that the Messiah would “put an end to sin.” How? By atoning for wickedness (Daniel 9:24). Ezekiel prophesied: “When I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezekiel 16:63). In Hebrews we read: “Surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:16-17). And there the last phrase means, “that he might turn aside God’s wrath, taking away the sins of the people.” And Paul also says: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26). And furthermore, John says, “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the one who turns aside God’s wrath, taking away our sins, and not only ours but also the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

As he prepared to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, our Lord agonized in sweat and blood, and never once stumbled into sin or doubt. Bless our Lord Jesus! Praise him with your life! Honor him with your worship! He is our Savior from sin.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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