Many people are familiar with the story of Jesus, the Pharisee, and the woman who was a sinner. If you remember, from Luke 7:36–50, the Pharisee invited Jesus over for dinner. As they were reclining, a woman who was known throughout the city as “a sinner” entered the room. “She brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” (Luke 7:37)
This had to be an awkward situation. You can just imagine the Pharisee and his guests trying to eat dinner with a woman pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet, then crying and wiping them with her hair. Not exactly how the dinner was planned.
Jesus ended up using the situation to teach about the power of forgiveness. His message to the Pharisee was that the more you are forgiven, the more you will love the one who forgave your debts.
To me one of the interesting things about this particular story is how Jesus interpreted the body language of both the Pharisee and the woman. In fact, there are no spoken words recorded for the woman. It appears that during the entire episode she did not speak. Jesus understood her body language and nonverbal expressions so clearly that no words were necessary.
Consider how Jesus evaluated the nonverbal communication of both the Pharisee and the woman from Luke 7:44–46. Notice how Jesus only refers to their nonverbal indicators, and does not mention anything they said verbally.
Pharisee· “You gave Me no water for My feet”
· “You gave Me no kiss”
· “You did not anoint My head with oil”
Woman· “But she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair”
· “But she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet”
· “But she anointed My feet with perfume”
Jesus’ conclusion in Verse 47 was based solely on their body language and physical actions: “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Learning to look for nonverbal clues as you read the Bible will greatly increase your understanding and improve your interpretation. Is body language in the Bible important? Just ask Jesus.