First a science lesson on sweat and then a Bible lesson. We all sweat! Perspiring is the way the body regulates the bodies temperature. Heat, exertion, stress, and sickness are the main contributors to sweating. But the Bible sees sweating differently.
The word sweat is found three times in the Word. And each time sweating is connected to sin. In each occurrence, we learn something about sin and about our persperation.
We begin in Genesis 3:19. Adam has eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He has disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit and not only has he fallen but he has doomed every person to be born after him. As a result of his sin, God curses man, the woman, the ground, and the serpent. It is in the context of judgement that we read, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Here we see Sweating and the Curse. Sweating is part of the curse that God places on all men. Before his disobedience, Adam worked in the Garden and had never sweated. But now sin brings sweat. What was before easy now will become a struggle. Everything will now be hard and difficult. By the sweat of his brow, Adam will eat. The curse causes sweat. Also, notice that there is not only a struggle but separation, as well. Adam will now die. He came from dust and he will return to dust. His body will now begin to fail him. I learned this a couple of years ago when I had a bleeding ulcer. I had lost enough blood to lower my blood pressure to 88 over 46 and I was wringing wet from sweat. The curse brings sweat. It shows us that life will be a struggle and we are all fragile and are dying.
Secondly, we see Sweating and Corruption. The next instance of the word sweat is found in Ezekiel 44:18. Here we have instructions for the High Priest’s attire in the performance of his priestly duties. We read here, “They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat.” The High Priest was to wear clothing that would prevent him from sweating. Why was it imperative that the High Priest not sweat? Two reasons, I think. Firstly, for Purity Sake. The High Priest must be clean as he performed his duties. He has washed several times and sweating would cause him to be ceremonially unclean. Excretions of bodily fluid caused defilement. Sweating would do the same. Then also for Performance Sake. If the High Priest were to work up a good sweat from performing his priestly duties, it might be construed that he played an essential part in the cleansing the people from their sins. It would be the sacrifice and the Priest that provided forgiveness. But of course we know that the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice that Christ would make at Calvary. And that sacrifice, by itself, redeems and makes propitiation. So the High Priest, like Adam, is under the curse and is corrupted in every way. He must make effort not to sweat so that he would not be defiled and so that he would not be considered to be an important part of salvation.
Finally, we see the third occurrence of the word sweat in Luke 22:44. Luke records the Garden of Gethsemane experience of Jesus. Here we are reminded of Sweat and the Christ. The one person who is not part of the curse and not corrupt kneels and prays to the Father and sweats what seems like drops of blood. We see here that Christ sweats for the people of God. Christ sweats because of the Work He is to do. Salvation can not be accomplished by anyone but God. The problem of sin is simply too big to deal with except by God. So Christ comes, rolls up his sleeves, puts his shoulder to the work and exerts all his strength to save the people of God and he sweats. But look again, Christ sweats because of the Wrath of God. Jesus Christ will become the curse and He will take our sins upon himself and receive the wrath of God . Christ looks into this cup of indignation and sweats because be takes sin, becomes a curse and endures the righteous wrath of God for us. The only one who could not sweat, becomes sin, becomes accursed, and is punished in our place. He sweats.
We often miss the significance of simple things in life. But I trust the next time you wipe sweat away from your eyes, you will remember. That you will remember that you are under a curse. The curse has made everything a struggle for you and has left you a dying person. That you will remember that you are corrupted. No matter how much you clean up the outside, you are corrupt inwardly. And no matter what you do, you can not contribute one thing to salvation–no matter how much sweating you do. And finally, that you would remember Christ. Jesus came and took our curse and was punished and died for our sins. He sweats for us. What we could not do, Jesus did for us. May we sweat and praise God for the reminders of sweat. For our salvation is no sweat for us.