Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Free ranging hen, Stonington, Maine
The idiom “blood, sweat and tears” is usually associated with hard work and not with poultry! That saying has often been attributed to Winston Church in his address to the UK in 1940 and was also the name of a 1960’s brass-jazz-rock group. But the term predates Mr. Churchill and rock bands. It was used in the early 1800’s by Christmas Evans, a Welch preacher, in a sermon referring to Christ’s passion.
Although beautiful in a strange way, hens are not high on my list of wonderous creatures or favorite birds unless it is a culinary list. Most likely, this bias is due to my early experience with cleaning out our hen house! However, Scripture elevates a mother hen’s care and protection of her chicks as an appealing simile of Jesus’ great compassion, love and desire to protect the peace of the holy city of Jerusalem and its chosen but rebellious, oppositional people. Looking at the city, he once lamented,
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! “(Luke 13:31-35 (ESV)
On Palm Sunday, the Christian community annually commemorates Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It initiates a week of remembering the mixture of madness and miracles, hatred and love, and grief and joy surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. His sadness over Jerusalem was very evident during his final return to the Holy City. He wept while others celebrated him!
As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” ……. And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! ” (Luke 19:35-45)
The crowd sang Hosanna’s, but Jesus’ heart was heavy. He knew the fickleness of human hearts, the upcoming betrayals, and the agony ahead. Nonetheless, his angst was not for himself. His distress was not because of personal rejection but was for the lostness of his people and the consequences of their rejection of God’s peace and protection! He had come to Israel to offer them restoration to the glory which God had chosen for them. He had come to his own, but they had not received him.(John 1:11) He was sad. He wept for them but was not bitter for himself.
On the night of his betrayal, Jesus agonized in prayer. He was apprehensive but not from fear of dying a gruesome death. Luke tells us, “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:41-45 (ESV) His terrible anguish was because “he who knew no sin (would become) sin for us.” (11 Corinthians 5:21). His distress was about the awfulness, the heinousness of humanity’s sin and about the guilt and shame he would have to bear to redeem mankind. It was about the terrifying consequence of separation from his Father, who would turn his face from him and the terrible, wickedness he would carry. He would lose the awareness of his ever-present Father’s presence! Life without God is hell. His sorrow was about the spiritual hell he would personally endure. But there was no other way to give mankind redemption! So, in agonizing sweat, he submitted in total obedience and commitment to the purposes of His Father.
Sin is so awful that it requires the most extreme solution. “… without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”(Hebrews 9:22) At his last Passover supper, Christ called to remembrance the importance of blood when the Angel of death swept over Egypt sparing only the firstborn where blood was on the lintel. While presenting the symbolic cup of wine, he said, “ …this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) The following day, Jesus shed his blood as he was brutally and cruelly abused and tortured in his travail for us- from beatings and lashings, from a crown of thorns, from nails impaling his hands to the cross, and from a sword that pierced his side. With love and grace, Jesus did that arduous work to attain forgiveness and righteousness for us. He made the way for us into the Kingdom because we cannot do it on our own. “ To him bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins.”(Acts 10:43)
Truly, Jesus showed the depth of his passion for us and for our redemption through his tears, sweat, and blood.