Bloody Sweat
Friday of Pentecost 10
23 August 2019
A correspondent asked, "Can we say Jesus actually sweat blood" in the Garden of Gethsemane? The English translations leave us in a quandary because of their variability. In His agony, burdened by the law and facing its ultimate penalty, Jesus was being so severely oppressed that His body produced sweat suffused with blood. Luke testifies: "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Lk 22:44). What fell to the ground were great drops of blood in His sweat. Now, some commentators take this to be a figure of speech and the sweat compared to blood, not that He actually sweated blood. But the Greek indicates that what fell to the ground was blood, the verb "fell" agrees with "blood," rather than "sweat."
I suppose that we could squabble about this at some length (I probably have at one time or another). People want to research whether or not this is physiologically possible. However, I am not sure what that has to do with it. Jesus does many things that are not physiologically possible, such as resurrection from the dead, or that God's Son dies. But is the physiological question really important? On at least one level the answer is "no." His agony is what the phrase testifies to. What does it cost Christ to take up the burden of the law with its oppression of sin and wickedness? That is the real issue, not the color of His sweat. He is not just any death row inmate, who dies as a just punishment for his sin on execution day. He willingly approaches His executioners. He offers no resistance to those who resisted His mercy. He holds in His all-creating hands those who would bind His hands. He offers His blood willingly under the burden of the law in the midst of the Gethsemane prayer in anticipation of His bloody sacrifice in Pilate's court and finally upon the cross. No one could take His life or the life of the blood from Him, He gives it up of His own accord, sweaty drop by precious sweaty drop.
If we had been in the Garden with Jesus, we would have sopped up this precious liquid with a fleece and captured the price of our salvation. Here is the New Testament version of Gideon's fleece sopping with salvation (Heb 13:12). How do we know the heart of God? How can we know our salvation certainly? We know that the Lord has saved His Israel with what was sponged from the agonized body of the Lamb of God (Jdg 6:37). In that bloody moisture there is life, for the life is in the blood (Lev 17:11). We seek no other sign of our life and freedom from the pulverizing burden of the law than that fleece. So the point here is not a question of interpretation "blood" or "like blood." The point here is that great Lutheran question: "What does this mean?" It means that we are saved at a precious price. It means that we are freed from the guilt of the law by the blood.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"The words 'Christ was born under the law' (Gal 4:4) are very meaningful and so should be diligently considered. They indicate that the Son of God, who was born under the law, did not perform one or another work of the law, not only being circumcised when He was presented at the temple or traveled to Jerusalem with others according to their worldly states, etc., or only doing these things in an external way (civiliter), but He suffered the whole tyranny of the law. For the law attacked Christ with all its power; it terrified Him so horribly that He experienced greater anguish than any man in the world has ever experienced. This is amply proven by His bloody sweat, the comfort of the angel, His solemn prayer in the garden (Lk 22:41-44), and finally by that cry of misery on the cross: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Mt 27:46). But He endured these things to redeem us who were under the law, that is, those who were sorrowful, frightened, and desperate, who were weighed down by sins, as all of us still are. For according to the flesh we still sin against all the commandments of God every day. But Paul commands us to have hope when he says: 'God sent forth His Son' (Gal 4:4).
"Thus Christ, the divine and human person, begotten of God in eternity and of the Virgin in time, came not to establish the law, but to feel its terrors in the highest extent and conquer it, so that through this He might destroy it. He did not become a teacher of the law, but a disciple obedient to the law, so that by His obedience He might redeem those who were under the law. All this is completely different from the teaching of the papists, who made Christ a lawgiver, and a more severe lawgiver than Moses. Here Paul teaches the exact opposite, namely, that God sent forth His Son under the law; that is, that He sent Him to bear the judgment and the curse of the law, sin, death, etc. Moses, who is an agent of sin, wrath, and death, captured, bound, condemned, and killed Christ; and Christ endured it. Christ held Himself passively toward the law, not actively. Thus He is not a lawgiver and judge in accordance with the law, but by subjecting Himself to the law and bearing its condemnation, He liberated us from the curse of the law."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.4
Judges 6:36-40

Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said." And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. Then Gideon said to God, "Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew." And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew. (ESV)
Lord Christ, You agonized for me, burdened by the weight of the law. From your veins came the price of my salvation and collected in the fleece of the New Testament I have life collected for me. Thank You for granting me the gift of Your life blood. Help me to hear of it and stand under it through the gospel. Amen.
For all those who do not hear the gospel of Christ in their churches, that they would be rescued from legalism through the divine Word of Christ
For all those who suffer as they help the sick and dying, that they would be strengthened by the divine Spirit to support those who need them
For all those who are seeking gainful employment, that the Lord would grant to them the gift of work
For all married couples who are praying for the gift of children, that the Lord would grant them this gift by His grace, or that they would learn to bear their childlessness as a sign of God's good and gracious will as did the saints of old
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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