SWEAT LIKE BLOOD
“Leaving there, He went, as He often did, to Mount Olives. The disciples followed Him. When they arrived at the place, He said, ‘Pray that you don’t give in to temptation.’
“He pulled away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?’ At once an angel from heaven was at His side, strengthening Him. He prayed all the harder. Sweat, wrung from Him like drops of blood, poured off His face.” Luke 22:39-44.
This is a very different Jesus from the one we have been accompanying through the Gospel of Luke. He was a man of many emotions, as we would expect from someone who was the perfect representative of mankind. Unlike many men, He did not ignore, deny or hide His emotions. He felt compassion, He rejoiced, He wept, He laughed, He grieved, He got angry and He got frustrated. Luke describes Him as a very human Jesus but also, always, the true Son of God.
This is the first time He showed His emotion regarding His approaching death. The dark shadow of the cross fell across Him in the olive grove. “Gethsemane” means “press” reflecting the process by which the precious oil was extracted from the olives that grew there. He was feeling the press of His impending sacrifice.
There were many “last times” for Him in the next few hours. The Passover meal He had just shared with His disciples was the last time He would eat with them. These moments would be the last time He would fellowship with His Father in the solitude of the garden and in freedom.
The overwhelming weight of what was looming was crushing Him like the press that crushed the olives. Only the pure Son of God knew what it meant to become sin for us. Only He felt the terrifying prospect of separation from His Father with whom He had lived in intimate and unbroken fellowship as a human being for thirty three years, of being cut off, abandoned and left alone in His time of greatest need.
Unless He was able to come to terms with, and fully embrace what lay ahead in the next few hours, the battle would be lost before it even began. His entire human life was consumed by this one purpose – to do the Father’s will. “Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God. Your law is within my heart.'” Psalm 40:7-8 (NIV). Now was the time to put His purpose to the ultimate test,
There is nothing wrong with the process by which He came to submission to the Father. There was no rebellion in His heart, not reluctance to submit, only the horror of His impending ordeal. He was to embrace His Father’s will by submitting to the worst that human beings could do to Him at the instigation of His arch enemy, the devil, without resistance, either physical or emotional.
This was a struggle so severe that His blood began to flow even before His skin was pierced by the whip, the thorns, the nails or the spear. Our minds cannot conceive of the suffering it meant, not only for Him but for the Father who loved and delighted in His Son beyond anything we can imagine.
In that moment, in the full understanding of what lay ahead, Jesus embraced the Father’s will once again, and the deal was sealed. From that time on, He was secure in the strength of His submission and the knowledge that He would overcome – and He did. No amount of torture or torment could remove from Him the peace that surrender had secured. He was the only one, in spite of being the prisoner and the one in trial, in absolute control of the situation.
“When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made not threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness…” 1 Peter 2:23-24a (NIV).
This is a great lesson for us to learn. Jesus won the battle before it began by embracing the Father’s will. He was not caught out or taken unawares. Unlike Him, we do not know what lies up ahead but, as we live in daily submission to God, we will be ready to face our own ordeals without resistance if we entrust ourselves to Him who judges justly.
“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Peter 4:19 (NIV).