Luke 22:44
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(44) And being in an agony.—The Greek noun primarily describes a “conflict” or “struggle,” rather than mere physical pain. The phenomenon described is obviously one which would have a special interest for one of St. Luke’s calling, and the four words which he uses for “agony,” “drops,” “sweat,” “more earnestly” (literally, more intensely), though not exclusively technical, are yet such as a medical writer would naturally use. They do not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The form of the expression, “as it were, great drops (better, clots) of blood,” leaves us uncertain, as the same Greek word does in “descending like a dove,” in Matthew 3:16, whether it applies to manner or to visible appearance. On the latter, and generally received view, the phenomenon is not unparalleled, both in ancient and modern times. (Comp. the very term, “bloody sweat,” noted as a symptom of extreme exhaustion in Aristotle, Hist. Anim. iii.19, and Medical Gazette for December, 1848, quoted by Alford.) If we ask who were St. Luke’s informants, we may think either, as before, of one of the disciples, or, possibly, one of the women from whom, as above, he manifestly derived so much that he records. That “bloody sweat” must have left its traces upon the tunic that our Lord wore, and when the soldiers cast lots for it (Matthew 27:35; John 19:24), Mary Magdalene, who stood by the cross, may have seen and noticed the fact (John 19:25), nor could it well have escaped the notice of Nicodemus and Joseph when they embalmed the body (John 19:40).

22:39-46 Every description which the evangelists give of the state of mind in which our Lord entered upon this conflict, proves the tremendous nature of the assault, and the perfect foreknowledge of its terrors possessed by the meek and lowly Jesus. Here are three things not in the other evangelists. 1. When Christ was in his agony, there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. It was a part of his humiliation that he was thus strengthened by a ministering spirit. 2. Being in agony, he prayed more earnestly. Prayer, though never out of season, is in a special manner seasonable when we are in an agony. 3. In this agony his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down. This showed the travail of his soul. We should pray also to be enabled to resist unto the shedding of our blood, striving against sin, if ever called to it. When next you dwell in imagination upon the delights of some favourite sin, think of its effects as you behold them here! See its fearful effects in the garden of Gethsemane, and desire, by the help of God, deeply to hate and to forsake that enemy, to ransom sinners from whom the Redeemer prayed, agonized, and bled.In an agony - See this verse explained in the notes at Matthew 26:42-44.40. the place—the Garden of Gethsemane, on the west or city side of the mount. Comparing all the accounts of this mysterious scene, the facts appear to be these: (1) He bade nine of the Twelve remain "here" while He went and prayed "yonder." (2) He "took the other three, Peter, James, and John, and began to be sore amazed [appalled], sorrowful, and very heavy [oppressed], and said, My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death"—"I feel as if nature would sink under this load, as if life were ebbing out, and death coming before its time"—"tarry ye here, and watch with Me"; not, "Witness for Me," but, "Bear Me company." It did Him good, it seems, to have them beside Him. (3) But soon even they were too much for Him: He must be alone. "He was withdrawn from them about a stone's-cast"—though near enough for them to be competent witnesses and kneeled down, uttering that most affecting prayer (Mr 14:36), that if possible "the cup," of His approaching death, "might pass from Him, but if not, His Father's will be done": implying that in itself it was so purely revolting that only its being the Father's will would induce Him to taste it, but that in that view of it He was perfectly prepared to drink it. It is no struggle between a reluctant and a compliant will, but between two views of one event—an abstract and a relative view of it, in the one of which it was revolting, in the other welcome. By signifying how it felt in the one view, He shows His beautiful oneness with ourselves in nature and feeling; by expressing how He regarded it in the other light, He reveals His absolute obediential subjection to His Father. (4) On this, having a momentary relief, for it came upon Him, we imagine, by surges, He returns to the three, and finding them sleeping, He addresses them affectingly, particularly Peter, as in Mr 14:37, 38. He then (5) goes back, not now to kneel, but fell on His face on the ground, saying the same words, but with this turn, "If this cup may not pass," &c. (Mt 26:42)—that is, 'Yes, I understand this mysterious silence (Ps 22:1-6); it may not pass; I am to drink it, and I will'—"Thy will be done!" (6) Again, for a moment relieved, He returns and finds them "sleeping for sorrow," warns them as before, but puts a loving construction upon it, separating between the "willing spirit" and the "weak flesh." (7) Once more, returning to His solitary spot, the surges rise higher, beat more tempestuously, and seem ready to overwhelm Him. To fortify Him for this, "there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven strengthening Him"—not to minister light or comfort (He was to have none of that, and they were not needed nor fitted to convey it), but purely to sustain and brace up sinking nature for a yet hotter and fiercer struggle. And now, He is "in an agony, and prays more earnestly"—even Christ's prayer, it seems, admitted of and now demanded such increase—"and His sweat was as it were great drops [literally, 'clots'] of blood falling down to the ground." What was this? Not His proper sacrificial offering, though essential to it. It was just the internal struggle, apparently hushing itself before, but now swelling up again, convulsing His whole inner man, and this so affecting His animal nature that the sweat oozed out from every pore in thick drops of blood, falling to the ground. It was just shuddering nature and indomitable will struggling together. But again the cry, If it must be, Thy will be done, issues from His lips, and all is over. "The bitterness of death is past." He has anticipated and rehearsed His final conflict, and won the victory—now on the theater of an invincible will, as then on the arena of the Cross. "I will suffer," is the grand result of Gethsemane: "It is finished" is the shout that bursts from the Cross. The Will without the Deed had been all in vain; but His work was consummated when He carried the now manifested Will into the palpable Deed, "by the which WILL we are sanctified THROUGH THE OFFERING OF THE BODY OF Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb 10:10). (8) At the close of the whole scene, finding them still sleeping (worn out with continued sorrow and racking anxiety), He bids them, with an irony of deep emotion, "sleep on now and take their rest, the hour is come, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners, rise, let us be going, the traitor is at hand." And while He spoke, Judas approached with his armed band. Thus they proved "miserable comforters," broken reeds; and thus in His whole work He was alone, and "of the people there was none with Him." See Poole on "Luke 22:43" And being in an agony,.... Or in a conflict, and combat; that is, with thee devil, who now appeared visibly to him, in an horrible form: after his temptations in the wilderness Satan left him for a season, till another opportunity should offer; and now it did; now the prince of this world came to him; see Luke 4:13 and attacked him in a garden, where the first onset on human nature was made: and now began the battle between the two combatants, the serpent, and the seed of the woman; which issued in the destruction of Satan, and thee recovery of mankind. The Arabic version leaves out this clause; and the Syriac version renders it, "being in fear"; and to the same purpose are the Persic and Ethiopic versions; that is, of death; and must be understood of a sinless fear of death in his human nature, to which death, being a dissolution of it, must be disagreeable; though not death, barely considered, was the cause of this fear, distress, and agony he was in; but as it was to be inflicted on him for the sins of his people, which he bore, and as it was the curse of the law, and the effect of divine wrath and displeasure:

he prayed more earnestly; repeating the words he had said before with great eagerness and importunity, with intenseness of mind, and fervour of Spirit, with strong crying, and tears to him that was able to save him from death, Hebrews 5:7

and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground. This account of Christ's bloody sweat is only given by Luke, who being a physician, as is thought, more diligently recorded things which belonged to his profession to take cognizance of; nor should it be any objection to the truth and credibility of this fact, that it is not mentioned by the other evangelists, since it is no unusual thing with them for one to record that which is omitted by another; nor that this is wanting in some Greek and Latin copies, as Jerom (w) and Hilary (x) observe; since it was expunged, as is supposed, either by some orthodox persons, who weakly thought it might seem to favour the Arians, who denied that Christ was of the same impassible nature with the Father; or rather by the Armenians, or by a set of men called "Aphthartodocetae", who asserted the human nature of Christ to be incorruptible: but certain it is, that it is in the most ancient and approved copies, and in all the Oriental versions, and therefore to be retained; to which may be added, that it is taken notice of, not to mention others, by those two early writers, Justin Martyr (y), and Irenaeus (z); nor should its being so strange and unusual a sweat at all discredit the history of it, since there have been instances of this kind arising from various causes; and if there had been none, since the case of our Lord was singular, it ought to be credited. This bloody sweat did not arise from a cachexy, or ill state of body, which has sometimes been the cause of it, as Aristotle observes, who says (a), that the blood sometimes becomes sanious, and so serous, insomuch that some have been covered with a "bloody sweat": and in another place he says (b), that through an ill habit of body it has happened to some, that they have sweat a bloody excrement. Bartholinus produces instances in plagues and fevers (c); but nothing of this kind appears in Christ, whose body was hale and robust, free from distempers and diseases, as it was proper it should, in order to do the work, and endure the sufferings he did; nor did it arise from any external heat, or a fatiguing journey. The above writer (d) a relates, from Actuarius, a story of a young man that had little globes of blood upon his skin, by sweat, through the heat of the sun, and a laborious journey. Christ's walk from Jerusalem to the garden was but a short one; and it was in the night when he had this sweat, and a cold night too; see John 18:18, it rather arose from the agony in which he was, before related: persons in an agony, or fit of trembling, sweat much, as Aristotle observes (e); but to sweat blood is unusual. This might be occasioned by his vehement striving and wrestling with God in prayer, since the account follows immediately upon that; and might be owing to his strong cries, to the intenseness and fervour of his mind, and the commotion of the animal spirits, which was now very great, as some have thought; or, as others, to the fear of death, as it was set before him in so dreadful a view, and attended with such horrible circumstances. Thuanus (f), a very grave and credible historian, reports of a governor of a certain garrison, who being, by a stratagem, decoyed from thence, and taken captive, and threatened with an ignominious death, was so affected with it, that he sweat a "bloody sweat" all over his body. And the same author (g) relates of a young man of Florence, who being, by the order of Pope Sixtus the Fifth, condemned, as he was led along to be executed, through the vehemence of his grief discharged blood instead of sweat, all over his body: and Maldonate, upon this passage, reports, that he had heard it from some who saw, or knew it, that at Paris, a man, robust, and in good health, hearing that a capital sentence was pronounced upon him, was, at once, all over in a bloody sweat: which instances show, that grief, surprise, and fear, have sometimes had such an effect on men; but it was not mere fear of death, and trouble of mind, concerning that, which thus wrought on our Lord, but the sense he had of the sins of his people, which were imputed to him, and the curse of the righteous law of God, which he endured, and especially the wrath of God, which was let into his soul: though some have thought this was owing to the conflict Christ had with the old serpent the devil; who, as before observed, now appeared to him in a frightful forth: and very remarkable is the passage which Dr. Lightfoot, and others, have cited from Diodorus Siculus, who reports of a certain country, that there are serpents in it, by whose bites are procured very painful deaths; and that grievous pains seize the person bitten, and also "a flow of sweat like blood". And other writers (h) make mention of a kind of asp, or serpent, called "Haemorrhois"; which, when it bites a man, causes him to sweat blood: and such a bloody sweat it should seem was occasioned by the bite of the old serpent Satan, now nibbling at Christ's heel, which was to be bruised by him: but of all the reasons and causes of this uncommon sweat, that of Clotzius is the most strange, that it should arise from the angels comforting and strengthening him, and from the cheerfulness and fortitude of his mind. This writer observes, that as fear and sorrow congeal the blood, alacrity and fortitude move it; and being moved, heat it, and drive it to the outward parts, and open a way for it through the pores: and this he thinks may be confirmed from the fruit and effect of Christ's prayer, which was very earnest, and was heard, as is said in Hebrews 5:7 when he was delivered from fear; which deliverance produced joy, and this joy issued in the bloody sweat. Some think the words do not necessarily imply, that this sweat was blood, or that there was blood in it; only that his sweat, as it came out of his body, and fell on the ground, was so large, and thick, and viscous, that it looked like drops, or clots of blood; but the case rather seems to be this, that the pores of Christ's body were so opened, that along with sweat came out blood, which flowed from him very largely; and as it fell on the ground, he being fallen on his face to the earth, it was so congealed by the cold in the night season, that it became really, as the word signifies, clots of blood upon the earth. The Persic version, different from all others, reads, "his tears, like blood, fell by drops upon the ground". This agony, and bloody sweat of Christ, prove the truth of his human nature; the sweat shows that he had a true and real body, as other men; the anxiety of his mind, that he had a reasonable soul capable of grief and sorrow, as human souls are; and they also prove his being made sin and a curse for us, and his sustaining our sins, and the wrath of God: nor could it be at all unsuitable to him, and unworthy of him, to sweat in this manner, whose blood was to be shed for the sins of his people, and who came by blood and water, and from whom both were to flow; signifying, that both sanctification and justification are from him.

(w) Advers. Pelag. l. 2. fol. 96. F. (x) De Trinitate, l. 10. p. 155. (y) Dialog. cum Tryph. p. 331. (z) Adv. Haeres. l. 3. c. 32. (a) De Hist. Animal. l. 3. c. 19. (b) De Part. Animal. l. 3. c. 5. (c) De Cruce Hypomnem. 4. p. 185, 186. (d) lb. p. 184. (e) Problem, sect. 2. c. 26, 31. (f) Hist. sui Temporis, par. 1. l. 8. p. 804, 805. (g) lb. par. 4. l. 82. p. 69. (h) Solin, Polyhistor, c. 40, Isidor. Hispalens. Etymolog. l. 12. c. 4.

And being in an {n} agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great {o} drops of blood falling down to the ground.

(n) This agony shows that Christ struggled hard and was in great distress: for Christ struggled hard not only with the fears of death as other men do (for in this regard many martyrs might seem more constant then Christ), but also with the fearful judgment of his angry Father, which is the most fearful thing in the world: and this was because he took the burden of all our sins upon himself.

(o) These do not only show that Christ was true man, but also other things which the godly have to consider of, in which the secret of the redemption of all mankind is contained in the Son of God when he debased himself to the state of a servant: such things as these no man can sufficiently declare.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 22:44. ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ, in an agony (of fear), or simply in “a great fear”. So Field (Ot. Nor.), who has an important note on the word ἀγωνία, with examples to show that fear is the radical meaning of the word. Loesner supports the same view with examples from Philo. Here only in N.T. From this word comes the name “The Agony in the Garden”.—θρόμβοι, clots (of blood), here only in N.T.44. being in an agony] The word which occurs here only in the N.T.— though we often have the verb agonizomai—means intense struggle and pressure of spirit, which the other Evangelists also describe in the strong words ademonein (Matthew 26:37) and ekthambeisthai (Mark 14:33). It was an awful anguish of His natural life, and here alone (Matthew 26:38; John 12:27) does He use the word ψυχὴ of Himself. It was not of course a mere shrinking from death and pain, which even the meanest natures can overcome, but the mysterious burden of the world’s guilt (2 Corinthians 5:21)—the shrinking of a sinless being from the depths of Satanic hate and horror through which He was to pass. As Luther says ‘our hard impure flesh’ can hardly comprehend the sensitiveness of a fresh unstained soul coming in contact with horrible antagonism.

as it were great drops of blood] Such a thing as a ‘bloody sweat’ seems not to be wholly unknown (Arist. Hist. Anim. iii. 19) under abnormal pathological circumstances. The blood of Abel ‘cried from the ground;’ but this blood ‘spake better things than the blood of Abel’ (Genesis 4:10; Hebrews 12:24). St Luke does not however use the term ‘bloody sweat,’ but says that the dense sweat of agony fell from him “like blood gouts”—which may mean as drops of blood do from a wound.Luke 22:44. Ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ) Ἀγωνία, the height of grief and distress (comp. note on Matthew 26:37, where the expressions are λυπεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν, for which Mark has ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδ.), arose from the presentation to Him of that cup. The same word occurs in 2Ma 3:14; 2Ma 3:16; 2Ma 3:21; 2Ma 15:19. It properly denotes the distress and agitation of mind which is attendant on entering upon a contest [ἀγών], and an arduous undertaking, even though unattended with any doubt as to the favourable issue.—ἐκτενέστερον, more intensely.[248] [This was done at His second and third departures, Matthew 26:42; Matthew 26:44; Matthew 26:39. Therefore it was immediately after His first supplication that the angel appeared; and after each of His prayers we may suppose that the angel strengthened Jesus.”—V. g.]) The more intensely with both mind and voice: Hebrews 5:7. Therefore not only were the (three) nearer disciples (Peter, James, and John) able to hear Him, but also the eight others.—ἐγένετο δὲ, but His sweat became) Hereby is set forth (exhibited) the intensity of His distress and agony.—ὁ ἱδρῶς, sweat) Although it was cold at the time: John 18:18. [That sweat was drawn out by the power received through the angel, by the agony of the struggle, by the intensity of His prayers, and His desire of drinking the cup.—V. g.]—ὡσεὶ θρόμβοι) αἵματος θρόμβοι, clotted drops (hillocks), from θρέψαι, i.e. πῆξαι, to fix or coagulate. Θρόμβοι αἵματος, drops, thick and clotted, of real blood. The force of the particle ὡσεὶ falls on θρόμβοι, not on αἵματος, as is evident from the fact of it (not αἵματος) having the epithet, and in the Plural, καταβαίνοντες. The blood streaming from the pores in smaller drops became clotted together by reason of its copiousness. If the sweat had not been a bloody one, the mention of blood might have been altogether omitted, for the word θρόμβοι even by itself was sufficient to express thick sweat.—ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν, upon the earth) by reason of its copiousness. Thereby the earth received its blessing.

[248] More earnestly straining every nerve in prayer. Ἐκτενής, Th. τείνω, I stretch or strain.—E. and T.Verse 44. - And his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Some (for instance, Theophylact) understand this "as it were" to signify that the expression, "drops of blood," was simply parabolic; but it is far better to understand the words in their literal sense, as our Church does when it prays, "By thine agony and bloody sweat." Athanasius even goes so far as to pronounce a ban upon those who deny this sweat of blood. Commentators give instances of this blood-sweat under abnormal pathological circumstances. Some, though by no means all, of the oldest authorities omit these last two verses (43, 44). Their omission in many of these ancient manuscripts was probably due to mistaken reverence. The two oldest and most authoritative translations, the Itala (Latin) and Peshito (Syriac), contain them, however, as do the most important Fathers of the second century, Justin and Irenaeus. We have, then, apart from the evidence of manuscripts, the testimony of the earliest Christianity in Italy and Syria, Asia Minor and Gaul, to the genuineness of these two famous verses. They are printed in the ordinary text of the Revised English Version, with a side-note alluding to their absence in some of the ancient authorities. Being in an agony (γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ)

There is in the aorist participle a suggestion of a growing intensity in the struggle, which is not conveyed by the simple being. Literally, though very awkwardly, it is, having become in an agony: having progressed from the first prayer (began to pray, Luke 22:41) into an intense struggle of prayer and sorrow. Wycliffe's rendering hints at this: and he, made in agony, prayed. Agony occurs only here. It is used by medical writers, and the fact of a sweat accompanying an agony is also mentioned by them.

More earnestly (ἐκτενέστερον)

See on fervently, 1 Peter 1:22.

Was (ἐγένετο)

More correctly, as Rev., became. See on γενόμενος, being, above.

Great drops (θρόμβοι)

Only here in New Testament: gouts or clots. Very common in medical language. Aristotle mentions a bloody sweat arising from the blood being in poor condition; and Theophrastus mentions a physician who compared a species of sweat to blood.

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