The Significant Supper pt. 4

Jon Williams

The tortured body and dispensed blood of Christ entices different reactions from different people. For Christians, it is an act worthy of commemorating every first day of the week. However, some are completely indifferent to the suffering savior. Perhaps it is a nice sentiment, but the apathetic would remain unresponsive and unrepentant to Jesus of Nazareth. Also, many skeptics scoff at the vicarious suffering of Christ; that is, the offering of his body and blood to atone for humanity’s sins. Their reasoning is that it is foolish for the Lord to send his son to die for us, when he could just forgive the sins altogether without requiring blood. Even Christ’s own disciples varied in their reaction to just the thought of his sacrifice. On at least three different occasions in the book of Mark, Jesus foretells his coming death, burial and resurrection to his disciples. In Mark 8:31-32 they responded with rejection. In Mark 9:31-32 they responded with confusion. And in Mark 10:32-34 they responded with fear. Not one reaction was positive!

We may take for granted that we see the body and blood of Christ in such a positive light, even as a means of worship, when much of the world does not. Jesus himself struggled to be optimistic about the topic at hand. Reasonably, he wouldn’t be happy about what he would endure on the cross. He did embrace the joy to come afterwards (Heb. 12:2), but not the pain that would precede. Prior to his betrayal, and crucifixion thereafter, Jesus retreated to a garden. There, he earnestly prayed, continually petitioning God for relief of the agony that would come; but following up those prayers with a submission to the will of God: “Not my will, but thine, be done.” What a humble attitude in the face of adversity!

But while he strove to make inward peace with his fate, his outward body could not hide the tension. Luke 22:43-44 says, “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.” There are different takes on what this description means. A simple and textual explanation would suggest this to be a simile. When the word “like” or “as” is used it compares two things in a figurative way: “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Thus, it would imply the blood to be figurative. Jesus was sweating out of his pores like blood rushing out of an open wound! Another, more literal, take on this description is a medical diagnosis. PH.D Alexander Metherell described it this way in an interview, “This is a known medical condition called Hematidrosis. It is not very common but it is associated with a high degree of psychological stress. What happens is that severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As a result, there is a small amount of bleeding into the glands, and the sweat comes out tinged with blood. We are not talking about a lot of blood; it’s just a very, very small mount.”

Whether it be a medical diagnosis or a simile, we can see, just from the physical reaction, that Jesus underwent an unfathomable amount of trauma when meditating on his coming death. And who wouldn’t? Well, we don’t; because we don’t have to. By his offering, we avoid the punishment endured on our behalf. And, as we meditate on the body and blood of Christ, we react differently than Jesus. As we eat the bread, we don’t come down with a case of Hematidrosis. As we drink the cup, we don’t profusely sweat in an agonizing emotional rollercoaster. There exist many depressing thoughts; but also a mixture of the joy and comfort that his salvation brought us. One of the greatest reason why the Lord’s Supper is significant: We get to meditate on the body and blood of Christ in a spirit of peace, tranquility and delight!