What does a good coach, a good cross-cultural worker, a good discipler, and a good porch-sitter have in common? They ask good questions. One of the things I’ve learned over time is how important it is to, firstly, just ASK questions. The world isn’t out there waiting for you to show up and tell them what’s what. We believe that we DO have answers… but to what? Even in things that seem inherently about “proclaiming,” (e.g., evangelism or justice advocacy), we are learning that moving from monologue to dialogue increases our impact.
But we also need to ask GOOD questions, the “right” questions. Questions that draw people out, questions that create space for open interaction. Questions like “Have you stopped being mean to your dog?” or “Are you really going to vote for that blowhard?” don’t count. Questions about the weather, sports, or about whether old Aunt Edna has finally lost it don’t count either.
The right questions can help people find the answers for themselves, can help them move toward a clarity of thought and purpose that you could never lay on them from the outside.
And they just make for far better conversation.
So how can we learn to ask better questions? There are plenty of resources out there, but let’s not get bookish. Instead I’m looking to spin off a series of posts about someone who, though known far more as a “preacher” or “teacher” asked a LOT of questions. That would be Jesus.
We’re going to look chronologically (as best we can figure) at questions Jesus asked and see whether we can’t learn a few things in the process.
As we look at the questions Jesus asked, we’ll try to discern WHY he asks what he does. Is there a response (verbal, mental, spiritual, practical) that he is seeking to evoke? Secondly, we might consider how Jesus might as the same question in today’s world – and whether this is a question that Jesus – being our master – is still asking of us today, or whether we (as ambassadors sent by him) should be asking that question today. Or both.
We’re not trying to be preachy or authoritative here… we’re continuing to learn how to ask good questions. So please feel free to ask your own questions about these questions!
So, without further ado, let’s consider the first time Jesus is seen posing a question… actually, the first time we hear him speak.
- Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? (Luke 2:49)
He’s still young here, maybe not even a teenager yet (not that anyone in those days thought in terms of “adolescence” the way we do now). And his parents, having brought him into the city to fulfill their religious duty, had headed for home (probably men and older boys traveling together and the women and the children together – so each one might have assumed the young fellow was with the other). After the first day’s trek, they come together and realize that their firstborn is missing. They are quite relieved and surprised when they find him in the temple, engaged in a discourse on scriptural texts. From my own parental experience, I can imagine their agitation as they asked Jesus to explain.
And, the boy answers a question with a question. He turns their thoughts from their own parenting (with its demands and responsibilities) to a greater purpose. He wasn’t asking why they were concerned, why they didn’t just go on without him. He knew that. What his question raises for us is more like: “Why “search” for something when you know where it is?” With this question, young Jesus is asking for them to consider what they might already have discerned, had they been observing the right things. Did you notice the unique relationship I have to God? Did you notice that He is my Father in a unique way, that I am already embracing my identity as His Son? And given that God is uniquely revealed in this place, how could you not know I would be here?
He wasn’t really looking for an answer, was he? But he was challenging others- even his physical parents- to refocus their attentions and expectations in a Godward direction.
Today, Jesus is still attending to the mission of his Father. We may assume that we have domesticated him into our own form of family or “tribal” religiousness, whereby we become so confident that he’s right here with us, that we don’t need to bother to wonder what he’s doing. And we are shocked and dismayed when his presence seems absent. But do we not know that God is active on the margins, powerfully revealing his presence in weakness, defending the integrity of the poor, the widow, the orphan, the refugee? Do we seek Jesus there? Don’t we know that Jesus has to be where God’s truth is being realized in lives?
Why are we searching so hard to find him, as if he were lost or missing? If we know who His Father is, and what He is about, we should know exactly where to find him. If we know the nature of the Father’s mission, we will know where to seek (and find and be amazed by) Jesus.