According to the book* that is inspiring the four-week sermon series Pastor Brenda and I will be preaching this month, in the gospels, Jesus asks 307 questions, is asked 183 questions, and directly answers fewer than 10 of those question he is asked.
According to Luke, the first words Jesus speaks are questions. Luke tells about Mary and Joseph losing track of their 12-year-old son when they journey home from Jerusalem. Jesus, it turns out, stayed behind in the Temple. When they finally track down Jesus, they find him “they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46; emphasis added). When his parents scold him for causing them so much worry, the preteen Jesus responds by asking two more questions: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).
Even in the resurrection, Jesus keeps asking questions: What are you talking about as you walk along? Do you have anything here to eat? Do you love me?
I know that a lot of Christians think Jesus is the answer. I think Jesus is the question.
Questions elicit information. They inspire people to discover something new, to unearth knowledge. But that is not all question do. Questions also forge intimacy. Think of a conversation you’ve had that you left feeling closer to the other person. Didn’t you ask each other question as your spoke?
When questions spark (or bespeak) mutual curiosity, they are building intimacy. When questions draw people into collaboration, they are building intimacy. Maybe this is one reason Jesus asked so many questions: it was a way to create intimacy between himself and the people he was speaking with.
But that’s not all Jesus’ questions did. His questions also disarmed. Consider the questions (according to John) Jesus asks of the first men to become his disciples (we really don’t learn much about Jesus’ female disciples in the gospels): What are you looking for? This question echoes through the ages to us, to me. Aside from my reading glasses, what am I looking for? Another way this question might be framed is, what is your deep longing? Now that’s a question that disarms us and invites us to look deep inside.
This sermon series will invite us to listen to a few of Jesus’ 307 questions. These questions may unearth information. They might increase our intimacy with Jesus. And they might disarm us, jostling us enough to look deep inside, maybe even causing us to feel some uneasiness.
Is there a dichotomy between intimacy and uneasiness? Put another way, could a Jesus question both draw us closer to him and make us feel uneasy, even unnerved? I think so. I hope so, as I prepare for this sermon series. My hope is that right there in the place where the question unsettles, God will be at work and a new intimacy will be sparked – the intimacy of hearing a true question and of being willing to venture into a true answer.
Peace, Pastor Jeff
*Jesus is the Question, but Martin B. Copenhaver.