It should be observed that to fall upon the ground and prostrate oneself before Almighty God expresses complete helplessness and dependence upon Him. There is not a more appropriate posture for offering supplications of this intensity. If there were, Jesus would have assumed such a position. Luke 22:41 states that Jesus "knelt down and prayed." Certainly there is no contradiction here. Luke simply provides additional information. Jesus must have began praying in a kneeling position and later "fell on his face" (Matt. 26:39).
Luke 22:43 reads - "Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him" (cf. Matt. 4:11). The Father heard Jesus' prayer, but He would not answer it with a message of deliverance (because of Their divine love for man). Jesus' prayer was answered by His being strengthened to bear the cup of suffering. How did the angels minister to Him? That is a question that the text simply does not answer. We should take great comfort in knowing, however, that God hears and answers the prayers of every child of His that humbly, trustingly, and faithfully seeks to do His will. He may remove our burdens or instead simply strengthen us to bear them.
"And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly" (Luke 22:44). The inspired writers of the gospel only give us a brief description of Jesus' suffering in Gethsemane. His agony here was not due to physical pain but to mental anguish and anticipation of the physical and spiritual torment that was so near. From the divine perspective, Jesus recoiled at the thought of becoming a sin offering for the world. He had committed no sin Himself, yet He would take upon Himself the sins of mankind (cf. II Cor. 5:21). These thoughts caused His humanity to tremble in weakness. He pursued strength in fervent prayer.
"Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44). It is difficult to know with certainty whether this literally happened or whether it is merely a simile. The Greek words used here are not conclusive either way. However, medically speaking, bloody sweats are certainly possible. In 1986, an article titled, "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ," appeared in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. It was authored by Dr. William Edwards (a pathologist with the Mayo Clinic), Wesley Gabel, a biblical scholar, and Floyd Hosmer, a specialist in medical graphics at the Mayo Clinic. These gentlemen suggested that Luke's description of the agonizing event is perfectly consistent with a condition known as "hematidrosis," in which there can be hemorrhaging into the sweat ducts during periods of acute emotional distress. In such cases, the skin becomes fragile and tender, and subcutaneous capillaries can dilate to such an extent that they burst, causing blood to ooze from the skin. In either case, Jesus was under an enormous amount of stress (more than any mortal today can truly relate to). He suffered greatly long before His physical body was abused.
We will continue studying this narrative in our next lesson.