Asking the Right Questions

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Jesus asks a lot of questions. Have you noticed?

In scripture, we meet a God who wants to engage us. We know this because Jesus frequently asks questions of his listeners. Jesus’s inquisitive posture is a dominant feature in his life and ministry. When his disciples are perplexed by something, he asks them a question. When individuals want to know more about his teachings, he asks them a question. When people ask Jesus a question, he often responds with a—you guessed it—question. Depending on the criteria you use, Jesus’s red-letter statements in the Bible include dozens and dozens of questions.

Some of the questions point out our hypocrisy: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

Other questions reveal our lack of strength and fortitude: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26)

Then, there are the rapid-fire questions that feel like an inquisition: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:46)

Still other questions speak to the deepest corridors of our soul and convict us with their honesty: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

We get it, Jesus. You want us to be reflective. You want us to consider the world from your point of view. You want us to grow by challenging us.

We can’t help it. As humans, we naturally strive to make meaning of our lives and the world around us. Regardless of the circumstances, we try and make sense of what we’ve experienced. In truth, we’re not very good at it. But that doesn’t stop us from trying! We try and find patterns. We want answers, not further ambiguities. And when we don’t get the conclusions that satisfy us, we are perplexed and often paralyzed by the anxiety and grief that the cul-de-sacs in our imagination present us with.

When we deal with hardship and suffering, answers—at least fulfilling answers—are in short supply.

When answers are not forthcoming, perhaps it’s because our focus is misplaced. Instead of yearning for resolution that never seems to come, maybe we should take a cue from Jesus and search more thoroughly for the right questions.

Yes, a well-positioned question can reveal more truth than a pat response.

Jesus: “Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds?” (Luke 24:38)

(Our answer: “Because we really don’t trust you.”)

What question is God asking us? Which inquiries from Jesus are we ignoring?

Oh, we seem to have plenty of questions for God. And if we’ll stop to think about it for a moment, we’ve got to concede that God must certainly have some questions for us, as well. Do we dare field them? Or, would we rather stonewall God like a well-disciplined press secretary?

Discerning and asking the right question requires courage and creativity. It requires us to be open to conversation so that the door to our heart will be cracked open. Determining the right question for ourselves, and for others, can yield a break-through moment. A well-considered question can change the trajectory of our lives, and ultimately help to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.

Jesus: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28)

Hmmm. Good question.