Word Study: Agony

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WORD STUDY – AGONY (ARAMAIC) דחל

Luke 22:44: “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.”

Much has been written and preached about Jesus in the garden praying the night before his death on the cross and the fact that was under such intense agony over His impending torture and death that he started to sweat drops of blood.

In an earlier study I suggest that when Jesus spoke of the cup passing from Him, it was not a cup of suffering that He was to face. The cup in Aramaic also means a stork which is noted for its loving and nurturing care for its young, even young that is not its own. In the ancient Semitic mind when someone heard the word cup kasa in a particular context they would think of an expression of deep love, nurturing and caring. The word for pass over could also be expressed as overwhelming. Thus, Jesus was not asking the Father to spare Him of the tortures that were coming but to let Him be overwhelmed with the love, nurturing and caring that He felt for mankind and to let that be all He would think about as he would be led to the cross.

The Bible says that Jesus was in agony in the garden. The word agony in the Greek is agonia which is where we get the word agony. In English agony means extreme and generally prolonged pain, intense physical or mental suffering. Yet, the Greek word has the idea of fear and anxiety that an athlete feels before a contest. The Aramaic word is dechitha from the root word dechel has pretty much the same idea as agonia but also is a word for fear in the sense of showing reverence, awe and respect. I believe it is safe to say that agony in this context is an emotion that shows concern or respect for another person.

Many years ago I attended an event where the guest speaker was a professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs. He had a time of questions and answer and I asked him if he felt fear before a game. He said he did not know what label to put on his emotion before the contest but it wasn’t negative. It was more an anxiousness over the opportunity to accomplish something. If it was fear, it was a fear that he would let down his team and his fans, but that only served to motive him more to perform at his best. He felt that the emotions (agonia, dechel) he felt only served to take his eyes off himself and place them on his teammates and fans knowing what he was doing was for them.

I believe what Jesus felt was this sense of anticipation, a motivation to fulfill an eternal promise. The history of all mankind was now about to face its greatest contribution, a contribution which would determine the eternal state of all mankind. He asked the Father to let the love and caring He felt for mankind to just overwhelm Him so that would be all he would think about in the next 24 hours. Thus in that time when He placed his total focus on us and our sufferings, heartaches, pains and torments Jesus was so overwhelmed that He began to sweat drops of blood.

The Greek says that Jesus sweat drops hosei like or as blood. The Aramaic uses the word aik which also means like or as. The original text, Greek or Aramaic does not say Jesus sweat drops of blood but only sweat drops as or like blood. Whether Jesus sweat actual blood or not is up for debate. Modern medical science does say there is rare physiological phenomenon known as hematohidrosis where under great distress blood vessels around the sweat glands will constrict and rupture causing the blood to enter the sweat glands and you have drops of sweat mixed with blood. Needless to say Jesus was under great distress. But why such great distress was it a fear of dying, or suffering? Millions up millions of people die and face their death without such a tremendous overwhelming suffering like Jesus apparently faced. I find it very hard to believe that Jesus was afraid of His own gizzard.

I would rather think that in that garden Jesus was experiencing the suffering of mankind and the lost state of mankind such that He was overwhelmed with grief. In that garden His focus was on us and not His own well being. Our suffering, our sinful state was almost more than He could bear.

This leads me into a study for tomorrow and that is that Jesus did not die from the wounds of the cross, he died of a broken heart. This suffering over our state built up in Him so strong that in less than 24 hours his physical heart could not stand it and just gave out. It was not the Romans, or even the Jews that killed Him, it was our sinful state, you and I that broke His heart and killed Him.

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