Posture can be used to emphasize power and importance. Kings had high, imposing thrones to signify their power over their subjects. Visitors to ancient and medieval courts had to kneel and kiss the ring of their Lord. Even in our democratic society, leaders can be distinguished by their corner office or imposing title. Power demands attention.
In the gospel of Mark, the reader sees people posturing. In chapter five the Gerasene demon-possessed man, the leader of the synagogue (named Jairus), and a woman who suffered from chronic bleeding each knelt before Jesus and begged for his help. They all acknowledged with their kneeling posture that Jesus was Lord, a person with authority and status. They recognized the power of Jesus.
I am not one who kneels easily. I’ve come to realize that I prefer to see Jesus as my friend and guide, who accompanies me, rather than as Lord and Master who commands me. I acknowledge his Lordship verbally, but I wonder if that is more ritual than deep conviction. Am I willing to “beg” Jesus for his assistance, like Jairus (Mark 5:23)?
The question of posture comes into sharper contrast at the end of the chapter. When Jairus heard the news, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher (Jesus) any further?” Jesus intervened. He told Jairus not to fear, but to trust in him. Jesus is Lord and has power. When they entered the room of the girl, the scripture says, “He took her by the hand.” I must assume that Jesus knelt down, since all beds were floor level. What an incredible act of tender love!
With love, Jesus knelt to meet the girl’s need. The whole incarnation is a form of God’s kneeling to meet the needs of humanity. Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death was God’s way of kneeling down before us, not to acknowledge our rebellious “power,” but as a way to enter our pain and suffering and lift us up.
As the Philippians hymn states
Jesus who emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God highly exalted him and gave him the name above that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Phil 2:7-10)
Lord Jesus, as you knelt to save me, now teach my knees and my heart to bend towards you.