Why Questions Are Important in the Christian Life

There’s something nerve-wracking about raising your hand in the classroom. It means the teacher and everyone else has to stop what they’re doing and listen to you. If you’re in the third grade and the person teaching is Miss Muller, the sweetest English teacher in the world, you might not think twice about raising your hand. But if your teacher is a renowned figure, asking a question requires a certain amount of bravery. You don’t want to waste their time or embarrass yourself in front of your peers by asking something they already know.

Jesus was often called Rabbi, or teacher. If you skim through the Gospels, you’ll see three things about the way Jesus handles questions:

1. Jesus welcomes questions in his ministry.

In his earthly ministry, Jesus is referred to by nearly everyone as “teacher.” Thousands of people traveled far and near to hear Jesus teach and expound the Scriptures; and yet, even amidst his acclaim, Jesus remained accessible and approachable. The Gospels record 183 questions directed at Jesus, spanning from, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark 10:2-3) to “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). 

The religious leaders often concocted questions as a way to entrap Jesus. In Mark 12, the Pharisees and Herodians ask him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion…. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” (v. 14) But Jesus sees their hypocrisy and responds accordingly: “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’ And they brought one. And he said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said to him, ‘Caesar’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at him.” (Mark 12:15-17)

While Jesus’s demeanor in answering questions may not always be mistaken for a sweet grade-school teacher, he nonetheless is the good teacher. He doesn’t tolerate loaded questions, but to those who come to him confused and needy, Jesus doesn’t just give interesting answers; he is the answer. When others are speculating about who the Son of Man is, whether he is John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter by asking his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 15:13-16)

2. Jesus doesn’t answer questions the way we expect.

Far from giving us factoids about difficult topics that only he knows the answer to, Jesus helps us ask the right questions. This is why he often begins answering others’ questions with a question of his own:

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?” (Matthew 9:14-15)

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” … “Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” (Mark 2:6-8)

 “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” (Luke 10:25-26)

While it may seem that Jesus is deflecting student’s questions, what he’s really doing is redirecting them. Humanity’s most preeminent and perplexing questions are asked as if they can be solved with more information and data. But as Jesus redirects our questions, he shows us the questions behind our questions–the questions we ought to be asking. Jesus doesn’t treat us as if we were Rubik’s cubes in need of the right solution; he treats us as we are–lost sheep. We need more than a good teacher; we need a good shepherd who will lay down his life for us. Jesus is God come to answer man’s most preeminent question: What can wash away my sin? (John 1:29).

Further, Jesus constantly redirects our questions so that we can see the implication that in him we not only have a good teacher, but also a sympathetic high priest. Our good teacher not only sees the problems that perplex us, but he also sees our plight, and he answers us by saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) 

3. We don’t need to be ashamed of our questions.

Intrinsic to Christianity are our questions about life and the world. This religion is not mere teaching or an outlook on life. It’s the good news that God has come to dwell with man, the crown jewel of his creation. 

This is why Jesus never dismisses our questions. He knows our frame: He knows that we have a difficult time even articulating our struggles and anxieties into questions. But he knows the needs of his little flock, and even when we can’t think of the right petitions to bring before him, he has already sent his Spirit to help us in our weakness: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26)

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At Core Christianity we want to give room, as Jesus does, for the questions we all encounter in the Christian life. This is why our work is devoted to helping answer questions every day LIVE on Core Christianity. Join us at 11:30am PST / 1:30pm EST and call Pastor Adriel with your questions: 833-843-2673.

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Caleb Wait

Caleb Wait (MA, Westminster Seminary California) is the Associate Producer of Core Christianity. He and his wife Kristin have two young children and live in Southern California. You can follow him on Twitter at @calebwait.

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