For many, the story of Jesus’s crucifixion has become so familiar that it’s easy to brush over what He actually endured on the cross when He died in our place for our sins. We tend to underestimate what He went through in the hours leading up to being crucified and during the six hours He hung on a cross in our stead.
My prayer for this article is that it will give you a taste of what it meant for Jesus to “taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).
Suffering in Prayer
We’ll start in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixion. Underneath a black sky, Jesus prepared for His worst nightmare—feeling the wrath of God for the first time in all eternity. Again and again, He begged God for another way. In a sense, He was asking the Father to find a clause in the atonement contract.
Hebrews 5:7 gives us a sense of the intensity of His prayers:
He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue Him from death.
In the garden, He wasn’t just praying—He was crying. He wasn’t just crying—He was weeping. He wasn’t just weeping—He was sweating. He wasn’t just sweating sweat—He was sweating blood.
The meticulously organized and detail-obsessed Dr. Luke described it this way:
And being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat was like drops of blood, falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)
How is this even possible? How can a human sweat blood?
Before we dive into this, it’s helpful to remember that Jesus was 100% human and 100% God. As a human, He slept when He got tired, He drank when He got thirsty, He ate when He got hungry, and He bled when He got cut.
And in this passage, He bled, most likely because of a rare physiological phenomenon that can happen when someone is in so much stress and anguish their capillaries burst and they literally sweat blood. It’s called hematidrosis.
It’s also interesting that all of this took place in the Garden of Gethsemane, where an ancient grove of olive trees thrives. The word Gethsemane comes from the two Hebrew words that together mean oil press. The oil was produced when olives were crushed by a stone roller. From the crushing, came the life-giving oil of the olive.
In the same way, Jesus was about to be crushed on the cross, where the life-giving blood of the Lamb of God would flow from His hands, feet, and side. We see a foreshadowing of this in the blood He sweated out from His pores in the Garden of Gethsemane.
After three hours of sweating blood in prayer—as He repeatedly asked God to remove the cup of unfathomable suffering He was about to drink—He also repeatedly declared to the Father:
Yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)
Suffering in Trials
When Jesus heard the approaching soldiers—led by His frenemy Judas—He stood up, fully submitted to the Father’s will. According to author Philip Yancey, this submission made Him the calmest person in every scene that was to come.