Jesus Bent Down
“But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.”
Experts tell us that non-verbal communication: our gestures, our facial expression and so on – in other words our ‘body language’ - account for the majority of information we convey during our interactions with others. We’ve probably all noticed this at some time or another.
But I had never considered Jesus’ body language, until one week in our Life Group when we focussed on John 8:1-11 – a passage called ‘Jesus forgives an Adulterous Woman’. On looking closely at the account of this episode, my attention was grabbed by what Jesus did even more than it was by what he said.
The Pharisees parade a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery before Jesus in the temple courts. Trying to catch him out, they ask Jesus if she should be stoned.
Imagine how terrifying and shaming this was for the woman as she was “made to stand before the group”. What fascinated me is how Jesus reacted. He didn’t stand and confront the woman, but rather he averted his gaze to the ground – to be precise, “he bent down”.
My interpretation is that he wanted to save the woman from embarrassment and shame. Jesus refused to take part in the circus unfolding before him, he had no interest in the humiliation and terrorising of the woman. Certainly, it’s a clear indication that he was going to have nothing to do with the Pharisees’ plan.
When the Pharisees continue to press, he stands up and responds directly to them. He crushes their self-righteous condemnation with the simple statement “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone”. And then he simply stoops down and begins to write on the ground. Perhaps aware of their own sin and hypocrisy, the Pharisees depart.
The passage doesn’t imply that Jesus condoned the woman’s behaviour. He wanted to her to leave her life of sin. But he wasn’t interested in using hypocrisy, shame, humiliation, terror or condemnation to get her to change. Instead, he showed compassion, forgiveness and gave clear instruction.
What a great example for us to follow.
Thank you, Jesus that you came into the world to save us. Thank you for your forgiveness and compassion. Help us to share your compassion with others.