Shame in the Teaching of Jesus

3. Shame in the teaching of Jesus – If shame is to be considered to have a prominent place in the thinking of New Testament authors, we would expect to encounter in the stories about Jesus in the Gospels.

Examples include:

Luke 11:5-13, where a sleeping man avoids shame (to himself and his village) by granting the request of his neighbour. (Bailey: p119-33; Stockitt: p114.).

Luke 15:11-32, where Jesus speaks of a family that experiences deep shame, the younger son’s requesting the money and leaving home would have brought untold shame on his family (Bailey: p165; Musk: p163; Nouwen: p36).On his shameful return to his village he expects scornful mocking by the community (Bailey: p178). The father’s actions, within the culture of Jesus’ day, were incredible. He took on himself the shame of the prodigal – running through the village, embracing both the shame and his son (Bailey: p181; Musk: p163). This story of shame, perhaps “more than any other story in the Gospel, … expresses the boundlessness of God’s compassionate love.” (Nouwen: p36; cf., Musk: p164.)

In John 8:2-11 we see Jesus dealing with the shame of the woman caught in adultery. He “shatters the solidarity of the shamers,” (Clapp: p28 cf., Jn 8:7) and, unlike the Pharisees who use shame to hurt and destroy, “Jesus uses shame to affirm and rescue a degraded woman. He does not deny the shame of her sin, but he refuses to let shame have the last word or define her.” (Clapp: p28 cf.,Jn 8:11.)


Kenneth Bailey; “Poet and Peasant”; Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1983.
Rodney Clapp; “Shame Crucified”; in Christianity Today, March 11,1991; p26-29.
Bill A. Musk; “Honour and Shame”; in Evangelical Review of Theology, Vol. 20, No. 2, April 1996; p156-167
Henri J. M. Nouwen; “The Return of the Prodigal Son”; Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1997.
Robin Stockitt; “‘Love Bade Me Welcome; But My Soul Drew Back’ – Towards an Understanding of Shame”; in Anvil, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1998; p111-119.

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