Monday, August 22, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about the power of nonverbal communication (see? Being a speech major has helped!)--especially the way we interpret a sigh. Nonverbal communication often trumps verbal. Yet, some nonverbal responses are difficult to make sense of. When someone sighs, what does it mean? Exasperation? Weariness? Impatience?

In her debut CD, Audrey Assad lets out this big sigh at the end of one of her songs, "Everything is Yours." Every time I hear it, my heart leaps, my throat tightens, and I nearly get all choked up. In the song, she's talking about the struggle of how we claim God is the source of all things, and yet we have this propensity to act like possessors. The song also reminds me of two poignant moments in Mark's gospel when Jesus sighs: just before he heals the deaf man (7:34) and after the Pharisees ask him for a sign (8:11).

I've always wondered why Mark included (uniquely!) these nonverbal cues and why Jesus sighed. Both instances certainly are filled with drama; the fact that Jesus sighs speaks volumes. And yet, I don't know what they mean (*sigh*). Nevertheless, the fact that Jesus sighed inspires me somehow.

What do you think? Why did Jesus sigh? What does his nonverbal response indicate? And, why did Mark include this detail in two stories that nearly butt up against each other?


JDTapp said...

One thing that has always bothered me is that Jesus sighs and weeps and "looks" at heaven or people in various ways, even sweats blood. But why no instances of him laughing? Why couldn't we get a "Jesus doubled over laughing at Peter's remark"?

Rodney Reeves said...


Oooh. I like it. Think of the possibilities--a new translation (a la Peterson): The NonVerbal New Testament.

Darryl Schafer said...

I wonder if Jesus doubted himself. In ch. 6, he's unable to do any miracles. I'm wondering if this carries over - in each story you mentioned, he's put in a spot where he has to prove himself, so to speak. Just thinking out loud...

My favorite nonverbal moment in Mark is in ch. 11. Jesus goes into the Temple and ends up "looking around." I don't know why, but I just like that.

Rodney Reeves said...


You certainly can make a case for Jesus questioning himself in Mark's gospel, esp. as you mentioned, since he is (in Mark's indelicate style) "unable to do a powerful work" in Nazareth. Maybe along these lines: "Am I doing any good here?" (The twelve certainly weren't "getting it", not to mention the religious leaders--the very ones who should have "gotten it").