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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 26 - Verse 42

Verses 42-44. It is probable that our Lord spent considerable time in prayer, and that the evangelists have recorded rather the substance of his petitions than the very words. He returned repeatedly to his disciples, doubtless to caution them against danger; to show the deep interest which he had in their welfare; and to show them the extent of his sufferings on their behalf. Each time that he returned, these sorrows deepened. Again he sought the place of prayer; and as his approaching sufferings overwhelmed him, this was the burden of his prayer, and he prayed the same words. Luke adds, that amidst, his agonies an angel appeared from heaven, strengthening him. His human nature began to sink, as unequal to his sufferings, and a messenger from heaven appeared, to support him in these heavy trials. It may seem strange, that since Jesus was Divine, (Joh 1:1,) the Divine nature did not minister strength to the human, and that he that was God should receive strength from an angel. But it should be remembered that Jesus came in his human nature, not only to make an atonement, but to be a perfect example of a holy man; that as such, it was necessary to submit to the common conditions of humanity, that he should live as other men, be sustained as other men, suffer as other men, and be strengthened as other men; that he should, so to speak, take no advantage in favour of his piety from his Divinity, but submit, in all things, to the common lot of pious men. Hence he supplied his wants, not by his being Divine, but in the ordinary way of human life. Hence he preserved himself from danger, not as God, but by seeking the usual ways of human prudence and precaution. Hence he met trials as a man; he received comfort as a man; and there is no absurdity in supposing that, in accordance with the condition of his people, his-human nature should be strengthened, as they are, by those who are set forth to be ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, Heb 1:14.

Luke farther adds, (Mt 22:44) that being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground. The word agony is taken from the anxiety, fear, effort, and strong emotion of the wrestlers in the Greek games, about to engage in a mighty struggle. Here it denotes the extreme anguish of mind; the strong conflict produced between sinking human nature and the prospect of deep and overwhelming calamities.

Great drops of blood, Lu 22:44. The word here rendered great drops does not mean drops gently falling on the ground, but rather thick and clammy masses of gore, pressed by inward agony through the skin, and, mixing with the sweat, falling thus to the ground. It has been doubted, by some, whether the sacred writer meant to say that there was actually blood in this sweat, or only that the sweat was in the form of great drops. The natural meaning is, doubtless, that the blood was mingled with his sweat; that it fell profusely—falling masses of gore; that it was pressed out by his inward anguish; and that this was caused in some way in view of his approaching death. This effect of extreme sufferings—of mental anguish—has been known in several other instances. Bloody sweats have been mentioned by many writers as caused by extreme suffering. Dr. Doddridge says, (Note on Luke 22:44,) that "Aristotle and Diodorus Siculus both mention bloody sweats, as attending some extraordinary agony of mind; and I find Loti, in his life of Pope Sextus V, and Sir John Chardin, in his history of Persia, mentioning a like phenomenon, to which Dr. Jackson adds another from Thuanus. It has been objected to this account, that it is improbable, and that such an event could not occur. The instances, however, which are referred to by Doddridge and others, show sufficiently that the objection is unfounded. In addition to these, I may observe, that Voltaire has himself narrated a fact which ought for ever to stop the mouths of infidels. Speaking of Charles IX, of France, in his Universal History, he says, "He died in his thirty-fifth year; his disorder was of a very remarkable kind; the blood oozed out of all his pores. This malady, of which there have been other instances, was owing to either excessive fear, or violent agitation, or to a feverish and melancholy temperament."

Various opinions have been given of the probable causes of these sorrows of the Saviour. Some have thought it was a strong shrinking from the manner of dying on the cross, or from an apprehension of being forsaken there by the Father; others that Satan was permitted in a peculiar manner to try him, and to fill his mind with horrors, having departed from him at the beginning of his ministry for a season, (Luke 4:13) only to renew his temptations in a more dreadful manner now; and others that these sufferings were sent upon him as the wrath of God manifested against sin, that God inflicted them directly upon him by his own hand, to show his abhorrence of the sins of men, for which he was about to die. Where the Scriptures are silent about the cause, it does not become us confidently to express an opinion. We may suppose, perhaps, without presumption, that a part or all these things were combined to produce this awful suffering. There is no need of supposing that there was a single thing that produced it; but it is rather probable that this was a rush of feeling from every quarter— his situation, his approaching death, the temptations of the enemy, and the awful suffering on account of men's sins, and God's hatred of it about to be manifested in his own death—all coming upon his soul at once—sorrow flowing in from every quarter at the concentration of the sufferings of the atonement pouring together upon him, and filling him with unspeakable anguish.

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