It is reported that a philosophy exam paper had but one question: “Why?” to which one student got top marks because he answered with one word, “Because”.
Another philosophy exam asked this: “Is this a question?” In answer one of the students wrote: “If that is a question, then this is the answer.” Later her answer was read, analyzed and praised for its extensive knowledge and insight at a subsequent philosophy lecture.
Some questions and answers seem only to have meaning to those who walk on earth because gravity commands it, while at the same time their heads are lost somewhere in the clouds.
It is quite different with a four-year-old whose favorite question is “Why?” That oft’ spoken and some times feared word bombards any given mother or father daily. In fact studies seem to agree that four year olds ask between 390 – 400 questions per day, with the majority asked by girls.
Any one of you as parents could sit down and write scores of unexpected questions your children asked you. I think my all time favorite question from one of our children was “Do frogs smile?” I do hope ‘no’ was the right answer.
Why do I raise such a matter as we prepare for Holy Week? The answer is not just “because,” as the philosophy student answered. It is because there are those who have counted the number of questions Jesus asked in the four Gospels. The answer given is, Jesus asked three hundred and seven and He answered one hundred and eighty-three questions.
For our Holy Week morning devotional services we’ll explore a few questions He was asked, and a few He asked of others. Each Question & Answer is not only important because they convey needed truths, but are important for us to ponder in our hearts.
Unfortunately, the older we get the less questions we ask. By the time that four year old reaches nine years old he or she has dropped down to one hundred and forty-four questions per day. The questions being asked are more difficult to answer, but there is so much more to learn. And by high school, the question “Why?” most often asked in kindergarten is the least asked question.
Jesus asked far more questions than He answered. Why? Perhaps it’s because Jesus is not a giver of advice. He doesn’t give lists of ten ways we can be closer to God. He doesn’t offer spiritual tips. He doesn’t provide easy answers. Instead He asks hard questions. Jesus is more like the prophets, who railed against the ruling authorities and spoke truths that convict the guilty by asking challenging questions.
“Why?” Why is it that we have a tendency to pay less attention to the questions Jesus asks than His answers? C.S. Lewis writes in his book, “God in the Dock”. “Jesus asks questions, good questions, unnerving questions, realigning questions, transforming questions. He leads us into liminal and therefore transformative space, much more than taking us into any moral high ground of immediate certitude or ego superiority. He subverts upfront the cultural and theological assumptions that we are eventually going to have to face anyway. He leaves us betwixt and between, where God and grace can get at us, and where we are not at all in control. It probably does not work for a large majority of people, at least in my experience. They merely ignore you or fight you. Maybe this is why we have paid so little attention to Jesus’ questions and emphasized instead his seeming answers. They give us more of a feeling of success and closure. We made Jesus a systematic theologian, who walked around teaching dogmas, instead of a peripatetic and engaging transformer of the soul. Easy answers instead of hard questions allow us to try to change others instead of allowing God to change us.”
During Holy Week this year we will consider Questions & Answers that could and should take us deeper and draw us closer to Jesus. You are invited to join us throughout the week.
Pastor Ralph Wetherington