Asking the Right Questions?

Voltaire is quoted as having said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

Jesus asks a lot of questions. Direct, bold questions with seemingly obvious answers. I read them and think: why would He ask that?

  • He asks a man who has been sick 38 years, “Do you want to get well?” Could anyone possibly not want to get well after suffering for that long?
  • A couple of John’s disciples begin to follow Him and Jesus asks, “What do you want?” I thought Jesus wanted people to follow Him. The question sounds almost like a challenge.
  • The disciples are describing how other people characterize Jesus. Then He confronts them with this: “Who do you say that I am?”
  •  Jesus and the disciples are out on a mountainside with a crowd of hungry people. Jesus asks: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He is the Son of God, and He is asking them?

 Children ask questions the way most people breathe. Naturally curious, they want answers. Adults often ask questions because they want to debate.

Why do you suppose Jesus asks questions? He’s the God of the universe, maker of all things, knows what is in us intimately, our very thoughts and intentions.

And yet, He bothers to ask.

Obviously, Jesus is not trying to learn something. His questions, I think, are meant to teach us something. Could be we have all the right answers to the wrong questions.

Maybe better questions would include:

Do I ‘Want To’?

 In life, we sometimes assume too much. For example, we assume that a sick person wants to get well. Jesus assumes nothing. He asks: Do you want to get well?

Maybe what happened to this guy was directly related to his refusal to stop sinning in some area of his life; (later, you’ll notice that Jesus warns the guy to stop sinning lest something worse happen to him.)  Maybe Jesus was really asking something like, “Do you finally want to get well bad enough to let that thing go?”

It all boiled down to this guy’s willingness to obey God. Jesus said, Pick up your bed and walk. The guy obeyed; and as he was doing it, he found that he could do it.

We whine about what we can’t do, blame other people for our impotence, for being stuck. But what it really comes down to is: Do you want to? When push comes to shove, we can obey God – if we want to.

What Do I Want?

When we come to Jesus, what are really looking for? What do we want from Him? If we are seeking something that is out of character for Him, not in sync with Who He is, we’re going to be disappointed. That’s what always comes with wrong expectation.

In Jesus’s day, people followed Him for many reasons. Some wanted deliverance from Roman rule, a Hebrew king. Others wanted a Healer to bind up their broken bodies and make them well. Still others were just looking for a Magic Chef who would produce a miraculous meal to fill their empty bellies; they never really discerned the supernatural, eternal value of Christ’s message.

We moderns have the same tendency to think materially rather than spiritually, often coming to Jesus with “A Shopping List” that begins with make me wealthy and ends with keep me healthy.

Jesus never promised His followers lives of wealth, health and ease. Instead, He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) Historically, Jesus’ disciples have been persecuted: fed to lions, sent to prison, into exile, tortured and executed in unimaginable ways, according to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Jesus didn’t heal all the sick while He lived and the ones He did heal eventually departed this life. Even Lazarus — whom Jesus famously raised from four days dead, buried and stinking — died again.

Obviously, Jesus cares about real pain, need and human suffering. His real mission, however, is dealing with the root cause of all our misery: sin. We sinners who come to Jesus should be looking first for a savior. The very name “Jesus” references His primary role:  “You shall call His name Jesus for He shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21)

What Do I Say?

In our “Talking Heads” generation, we’re accustomed to cable news and talk radio offering constant comment about what “they” said and what “they” should do. Commentators tell us what people around the world are saying about how every problem can be solved by some anonymous, collective “them.”

When the spotlight is on “them,” I become a mere observer with no personal responsibility for outcomes.

Jesus, however, makes everything personal. He always brings the conversation back to “us.” It’s all very well to talk about what Mom, Dad, my neighbor, my co-worker think about Jesus. But what they say really has nothing to do with me.

Jesus is a personal God who wants me to make a personal decision. What I say about Jesus – believing in my heart and confessing with my mouth — is what counts. (Romans 10:9-10)

Who Do I Rely On?

 In the middle of nowhere with no grocers or food stand for miles, Jesus asks where they are going to get food for a crowd of 5,000. The disciples must have thought, “Good question.”

I am equally sure that Jesus did not expect them to provide a real answer. It was a test. (John 6:6) How would they approach a problem that was so obviously beyond human means to solve?

What most of us do is: a) completely give up because we focus on the impossibility of our situation or b) try to come up with a solution on our own. When neither approach works, we come to Jesus with that original problem and whatever mess we made while trying to solve it.

Jesus wants us looking to Him as our solution source. When we face some beyond-human-ability issue, God is not asking us to solve our own problem. He wants faith in action, our bringing what we have to Him as inadequate as it may be – like five loaves and two fish for feeding 5,000+ — and trusting Him to figure it out.

We are all about answers. Jesus starts with the right questions. Maybe we should follow His lead?

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