Amazed by His Questions
There is a true art to asking questions. As an introvert, for whom small talk is a foreign language I have yet to acquire, I have often been in awe of my extroverted husband’s ability to walk into a room of strangers and leave having made a number of new friends. He has discovered that delicate balance between questions of interest and those which are intrusive. I have also admired the ability of our former pastor, Bob Page, whose previous life as a reporter seemed to equip him to ask questions as fascinating as the answers he received. And our current pastor, Jay Childs, has a knack of asking penetrating, sometimes jarring questions, often with a twinkle in his eye as he watches the wheels whirling in our minds while we search for an answer.
As we read through the Gospels, we see that Jesus, too, made ample use of questions. He utilized them as teaching tools, as a method of turning the tables on his enemies, and as poignant probes into the hearts of friend and foe alike. Too often we may have a tendency to rush past the question to get to the answer, but today let us focus on those questions—both the intent behind them and the way they speak through the centuries into our lives today. Let us be amazed at the wisdom and the heart of Christ they display.
### Jesus had a propensity for answering a question with a question. This was especially true in the cases where His enemies were setting a trap for Him. Not only did He not fall into their snare, He insightfully set His antagonists on their heels by putting a perplexing question to them. These questions very often pointed out the hypocrisy of their attack on Jesus. For example, when the teachers of the law questioned why the disciples didn’t ceremonially wash before eating, Jesus fired back, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” He highlighted the fact that they held their man-made traditions in higher regard than the true law of God. They kept the letter of man-made rules but neglected the heart of God and true intent of the law.
When the elders of the people questioned by what authority Jesus spoke and acted, He rattled them by asking them a lose-lose question: “I will also ask you one question . . . John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven or from men?” This put the elders in quite a bind because, if they said the baptism was from heaven, they’d have to answer to the fact they didn’t submit to it. But if they said it was from men, then they’d have all the people angry with them because the people truly believed John was a prophet of God. Frustrated, they not only refused to answer but realized that they could not force Jesus to defend His own authority, or further expose Himself to their attacks.
Jesus also repeatedly used the equivalent of the phrase, “Haven’t you read?” when answering the Pharisees’ assailing queries. They had set out to put this uneducated Galilean in His place, displaying their great knowledge of God’s law, but they had little hope in any contest of wits with the living Word, the one who knew both the mind and heart of the Father. The time they accused His disciples of breaking the Sabbath, He retorted, “Haven’t you read the Law that on the Sabbath the priest in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? . . . If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” What could you do with a fellow who was fearless in the face of the tactics they had used to cower the populace into compliance with their authority? Fearless because He had an authority all His own—divine authority, no less!
When they questioned Jesus about divorce, He got back to the heart of the matter with, “‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female . . . ‘” taking them to the reason for marriage and exposing the hardness of heart at the root of divorce. Time and time again, the Pharisees came at Jesus with legalism, and Jesus would pull back the layers and expose the heart—both the heart of man and the heart of God.
While it is a little fun to watch our hero, Jesus, slice and dice the enemy rulers, cheering as His sharp mind leaves them frustrated and without answer, we miss the point if we don’t take His questions to heart ourselves. Are there places in our lives where our traditions and man-made rules take precedence over what God says? Do we use these lessor regulations as justifications for neglecting the heart of what God is saying to us? Do we focus on the secondary when God is calling us to the primary? Is love our law, or do we stumble over legalism as we approach others?
And we may think we have a leg up on the Jewish rulers because we don’t question Jesus’ authority. We say that Jesus, as the Son of God, does have all authority, but do we actually live as though that is true in our lives? Are all His commands the foundation of our conduct? Before answering that, we need to be certain we know what all His commands are, but to begin with: are we leaving our gifts at the altar when we need to be reconciled with someone? Are we forgiving seventy times seven? Are we loving as He called us to love, sacrificially, laying down our lives? Are we serving those He refers to as “the least of these”? Are we seeking to love the Father with all our heart and mind and strength? Or do we give lip-service to His authority in our lives? His questions about authority may apply to us as much as to those Pharisees.
And the many times He challenges them with, “Have you not read?”—is that not a question He could put to us, as well? Are we basing our beliefs and actions on what the Word of God says or on what we want it to say? At one point, Jesus told the leaders that they were in error because they did not know the scriptures nor the power of God. What a stinging rebuke. These men had vast tracts of scripture memorized—at the very least, the five books of the Torah, if not the prophets. But if Jesus were to put that question to us, would we be able to answer with certainty that we are basing our life on His Word?
Suddenly, His questions are not just thrusts at the egos of Jesus’ enemies, but arrows that can pierce the hearts of those who claim to follow Him. Jesus asked hard questions of His disciples, as well. He challenged Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” How often could that question confront us in our level of faith? He not so gently addressed them with, “Are you still so dull?” Have you ever felt like you were never going to get some spiritual lesson, one that you may have stumbled over time and time again?
When James and John sought rank in the Kingdom, Jesus asked, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” Isn’t that question appropriate for us at times, when we want to have great Kingdom gain, but perhaps haven’t counted the Kingdom cost? Have there been times we have wanted the fruit without the pruning that goes with it? We want the crown without the cross. Are we willing to drink His cup?
And then there are the heartbreaking questions, those questions that come when we have failed the call. We resonate with the internal wince of the disciples who heard, “Could you not wait with me for one hour? . . . Are you still sleeping and resting? . . . Do you love me more than these?”
As we read through the gospels, strive to become more aware of Jesus’ questions. Ask the Lord to show you both the wisdom and the heart of Jesus in the questions. Ask Him to apply these questions in your own life—whether the questions are for the Pharisees, the disciples, or those to whom Jesus is ministering. Ask the Lord to give you sensitivity to the probing of the Spirit as you open yourself up to hear what the Lord would say to you.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries