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Sweat, blood and tears

It takes some years to understand the way that adults talk. My mother, on those occasions when as a boy I pointed out that she was sweating, would announce, with aplomb, “Horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow.” I thought she was speaking biological truth, until I was older, and realized her eloquent layer of courtesy.

What is it about sweat? Is it something unseemly? According to the prophet Ezekiel, the priests in the temple were not to wear garments that would make them sweat. They were not to wear woolen garments, but linen, for “they must not wear anything that makes them perspire.” Why is that? It seems that the answer is not that it is unholy to sweat, but that sweat is a symbol of work, and work has no place in a temple of grace. Not of course meaning that there is no place for hard work and service in the Christian Faith, but simply that the means of our justification rests not upon our blood, sweat and tears, but solely and wholly upon the grace of God.

That’s why when our great High Priest knelt in that sanctuary in the Garden of Gethsemane, he wasn’t violating the priestly rule by sweating, though he did, and ‘his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground’. He knew the law. It was his after all. It was just that only he could do the sweaty work that would bring us back to God.

DM 8th June 2020

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