Reading through the gospels, I’ve often been struck by how many questions people have for Jesus:
Nathaniel asked, “How do you know me?”
The woman at the well asked, “”Where do you get that living water?”
The Pharisees asked, “Who are you?”
Peter asked, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”
Thomas asked, “How can we know the way?”
Pilate asked, ” What is truth?”
Then there’s the prelude to the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-29 where the lawyer came to Jesus and asked “What must I do to inherit eternal life.”
That’s a great question, really. How can I live forever? How can I avoid death? How can I have a full, abundant life? But a great question can be spoiled by bad motives. Luke tells us the lawyer asked this question not because he was seeking truth, but to put Jesus to the test. And he asked his next question, “who is my neighbor?” to justify himself.
Questions can be used to accuse: “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” the Jews asked Jesus.
They can reveal one’s greed like Judas asking, “Why was this perfume not sold and the money given to the poor?”
Questions can be used to find an easy out, like Peter’s question to Jesus: “How many times must I forgive my brother?”
They can reflect a complaining spirit as Martha’s question did: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”
A good questioning is very different. It’s an asking that doesn’t try to push the other person away or trying to create distance in between. It puts me into a relationship with the other person and starts a dialogue. If what we are really after is a deeper, stronger connection with God, good questions help us come closer whether they are questions of the mind, or of the heart, or of the spirit.
God’s questions for me
But when I ask an honest question seeking to understand, I also open myself up to being asked a question in return. To the lawyer’s question about inheriting eternal life, Jesus answered by asking, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” He didn’t give the dead-end answer. He invited the lawyer into a give and take.
When the chief priests and the teachers of the law asked Jesus to tell them by what authority he was teaching and healing, Jesus said, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John’s baptism–was it from heaven, or from men?”
When people followed after Him, Jesus asked, “What are you seeking?”
To the cripple beside the pool, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”
To His disciples after other followers had left Him, Jesus asked, “Do you want to go away as well?”
To the man born blind, He asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
To Mary Magdalene after His resurrection, Jesus asked, “Why are you weeping?”
To Peter after his denial, Jesus asked, “Do you love me?”
Back and forth, back and forth, a question asked, a question answered, sometimes with a question, sometimes only with God’s presence. But our questions never drive Him away. He is always waiting for us to take another step closer and draw near to Him even in our confusion.
For me, the question I often ask Him is “But who will love me?” And I think His question back is “Will you come and be loved by Me?”
So in the spirit of engagement, what’s your question for God? And what do you think His question is for you?
P.S. Happy 1/11/11