The night before Jesus Christ was crucified, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke, a physician, recorded that Jesus’ sweat was like drops of blood: “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Some consider Luke’s description as mere simile—Jesus’ sweat fell to the ground in large, heavy drops, the way that blood drips from an open wound. However, there exists a medical condition that produces the symptoms described and explains Luke’s mention of blood.
Hematidrosis is a rare, but very real, medical condition that causes one’s sweat to contain blood. The sweat glands are surrounded by tiny blood vessels that can constrict and then dilate to the point of rupture, causing blood to effuse into the sweat glands. The cause of hematidrosis is extreme anguish. In the other gospel accounts, we see the level of Jesus’ anguish: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38; cf. Mark 14:34).
The intense anguish and sorrow Jesus felt was certainly understandable. Being God, Christ knew “all that was going to happen to Him” (John 18:4). He knew in painstaking detail the events that were to follow soon after He was betrayed by one of His very own disciples. He knew He was about to undergo several trials where all of the witnesses against Him would lie. He knew that many who had hailed Him as the Messiah only days earlier would now be screaming for His crucifixion (Luke 23:23). He knew He would be flogged nearly to the point of death before they pounded the metal spikes into His flesh. He knew the prophetic words of Isaiah spoken seven centuries earlier that He would be beaten so badly that He would be “disfigured beyond that of any man” and “beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14). Certainly, these things factored into His great anguish and sorrow, causing Him to sweat drops of blood. Yet there was more.
Crucifixion was considered to be the most painful and torturous method of execution ever devised and was used on the most despised and wicked people. In fact, so horrific was the pain that a word was designed to help explain it—excruciating, which literally means “from the cross.” From His arrest in the garden until the time our Lord stated, “It is finished” (John 19:30), Scripture records only one instance where Jesus “cried out in a loud voice” (Matthew 27:46). As our sinless Savior bore the weight of the world’s sins on His shoulders, His Father must have looked away, as His “eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Habakkuk1:13), causing the suffering Servant to cry out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46). The spiritual pain of this feeling of abandonment no doubt greatly exceeded the intense physical pain the Lord endured on our behalf.
At the beginning of creation, human history began in a garden (Genesis 2:8), and when the first Adam sinned against God in this garden, death entered the world (Genesis 3:6). Thousands of years later, Jesus Christ, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), entered into another garden to accept the cup from His Father’s hand (Matthew 26:42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42), and death was about to be swallowed up in victory. Although God’s plan was designed before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4–5), we must never forget that its execution came at a great cost. Ultimately, then, we are the ones responsible for the blood that dripped from our Savior as He prayed in the garden. And we are the reason Jesus’ soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Indeed, these bloodied sweat drops came at a great cost; let us never forget that.