V. The Garden of Gethsemane
The Cross was Jesus' destiny and He knew it. The moment was rapidly growing near when He tells Peter, James, and John in
Mark 14:34 - "And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch."
Could you imagine what kind of mental state you would be in knowing that only in a few short hours you were going to endure suffering, pain, and ultimately a horrible death that only the worst criminals were executed by and you were actually innocent of the crime?
The physician and historian Luke records in his writings a very sensitive medical observation that he gathered from eyewitnesses about the moment Jesus had in the Garden of Gethsemane while praying:
Luke 22:42-44 - “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground."
There are some later manuscripts that omit these verses from Luke's account altogether. The reason why is because it is highly probable that those in several areas of the church at the time of reading this felt that this account of Jesus being overwhelmed with a human weakness was incompatible with His sharing the divine omnipotence of the Father.
But... and a HUGE "but" may in fact be inserted here, because the presence of these verses are in very early and ancient manuscripts. They are also used in citations by Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Eusebius, and many other early Church Fathers, which is PROOF of the antiquity of the account. (see "A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament" Second Edition, by Bruce Metzger p. 151, The Gospel according to Luke 22. 43-44 (omit verses) (A) )
Why is this so important?
Because Luke (remember that he is a physician, see Colossians 4:14) makes an often overlooked medical observation:
"...and his sweat became like great drops of blood..."
Throughout the many years of Christianity, this has stumped theologians in whether or not to interpret it literally, figuratively, or as an allegorical expression. I have looked into it on all three accounts and I find the evidence overwhelmingly convincing to understand it as literal, because there is a rare medical condition called "hematidrosis."
According to Stedman's Medical Dictionary it is defined as:
"an excretion of blood or blood pigments in the sweat"
There have been numerous documented reports of this happening to individuals who have suffered from severe anxiety and the reaction of hematidrosis taking place due to fear. I have read about many fascinating cases, but the one that really clings to my mind is about a sailor. It appeared in an article by Popular Science Monthly Volume 26 January 1885 entitled "Bloody Sweat" By J. H. POOLEY, M. D., PROFESSOR OF SURGERY IN THE TOLEDO MEDICAL COLLEGE, TOLEDO, OHIO. The following is just one of a few selected stories that he shares. It is a quick and fascinating read on the subject from a man by the name of Dr. Schneider, a celebrated German physician:
" ...He quotes, among others, the following remarkable case from Paulini: While surgeon on board a vessel, a violent storm arose, and threatened immediate destruction to all. One of the sailors, a Dane, thirty years of age, with fair complexion and light hair, was so terrified that he fell speechless on the deck. On going to him, Paulini observed large drops of perspiration of a bright-red color on his face. At first, he imagined the blood came from the nose, or that the man had injured himself by falling; but, on wiping off the red drops from his face, he was astonished to see fresh ones start up in their place. The colored perspiration oozed out from different parts of the forehead, cheeks, and chin; but was not confined to these parts, for, on opening his dress, he found it formed on the neck and chest. On wiping and carefully examining the skin, he distinctly observed the red fluid exuding from the openings of the sweat-ducts. So deeply stained was the fluid that, on taking hold of the handkerchief with which it was wiped off, the fingers were made quite bloody. As the bloody perspiration ceased, the man's speech returned; and when the storm passed over he recovered, and remained quite well during the rest of the voyage."
This is just one example of a documented case that really stood out to me and there are others, so the narrative in Luke's Gospel gives no reason to think anything but the author is just doing his duty as a historian and writing down facts from eyewitnesses that really stood out to him. Being medically minded and a physician as Luke was, it certainly makes sense to why and when he heard that "Jesus was in agony, his sweat became like great drops of blood, and fell to the ground," would stand out to him and he would record it. Little did Luke know at the time of recording it, centuries later, that it would have caused so much controversy. The fact of the matter is that he wrote down a very important piece of evidence pointing to the very beginning of Jesus' severe mental anguish. At this point Jesus would have been very weak, depressed, and more than likely dehydrated. Take this into consideration as we move on...