By Bryan Owen
The best leaders know how to ask the right questions. By this metric, Jesus embodies great leadership. Taking all four Gospels into account, Jesus asks well over 300 questions, many of which cut straight to the heart of the matter at hand. And in keeping with the principle that the Bible is “a book uniquely inspired by God and addressed to each of the faithful personally,” it is appropriate and challenging to receive those questions as though Jesus were addressing them to each one of us (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, Revised Edition [St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995], p. 111).
I like the way Monsignor Charles Pope puts it:
One of the bigger mistakes people make in reading Scripture is that they read it as a spectator. For them Scripture is a collection of stories and events that took place thousands of years ago. True enough, we are reading historical accounts.
But, truth be told these ancient stories are our stories. We are in the narrative. You are Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Deborah, Jeremiah, Ruth, Peter, Paul, Magdalene, [and] Mother Mary …. As the narrative we read unfolds, we are in the story. We cannot simply watch what others say or do or answer. For what Peter and Magdalene and others did, we do. Peter denied and ran. So do we. Magdalene loved and never gave up, [so] should we. Magdalene had a sinful past and a promising future, so do we. Peter was passionate and had a temper[,] so do we. But Peter also loved the Lord and ultimately gave his life for the Lord. So can we. Jesus suffered and died but rose again and ascended to glory. So have we and so will we.
The scriptures are our own story. We are in it. To read scripture as a mere spectator looking on is to miss the keynote. Scripture is our story.
In the light of this keynote there emerges another very important and powerful key to unlocking the text. The key is simply this: Answer the Question! Among the many things Jesus did, he asked a lot of questions! And whenever you read the Gospels and Jesus asks a question, answer it! Do not wait to see what Peter or Magdalene, or the Pharisees or the crowd say for an answer. You answer the question, in your own words. This brings Scripture powerfully alive. (Msgr. Charles Pope, “100 Questions Jesus Asked and You Ought to Answer,” Community in Mission [Feb. 10, 2012])
Pastor Eric von Atzigen offers this insight into why Jesus asked so many questions:
I have been amazed by how masterfully our Lord uses questions to teach vital spiritual truths. Jesus never asked a question because he needed to know the answer. He used questions the way a surgeon uses a scalpel, to delicately cut into a new level of understanding. … I find myself amazed at the power of these questions to cut into my soul. (“135 Questions Jesus Asked,” Monday Morning Review [May 14, 2010])
I had never really thought about it in quite this way before, but Pastor Eric is right: Jesus’ questions are powerful! And they can open places in our hearts and souls to receive the healing grace of God.
I share here a few of the questions Jesus asks. Use them for your prayerful meditation and reflection. You can look each one of them up for the context, but perhaps it’s best to follow Msgr. Pope’s counsel:
Just let the question meet you where you are right now. The question may mean something for you that is very different than its original context. But that is OK. Just pick a question, read it, consider it and answer it, by talking to the Lord.
Questions Jesus Asks
“Why are you afraid?” (Mark 4:40)
“What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51)
“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matt. 9:28)
“Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25)
“Why do you think evil in your hearts?” (Matt. 9:4)
“Why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31)
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13)
“Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15)
“Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?” (John 18:34)
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” (Matt. 19:17)
“Why do you involve me?” (John 2:4)
“If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?” (John 3:12)
“Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6)
“Does this offend you?” (John 6:61)
“Did I not choose you?” (John 6:70)
“Why do you not understand what I say?” (John 8:43)
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” (John 13:12)
“What shall we say the Kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?” (Mark 4:30)
“Are you so dull?” (Mark 7:18)
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
“What is written in the law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26)
“Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Luke 12:25)
“So if you have not been trustworthy with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11)
“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)
“Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38)
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67)
“Why are you trying to kill me?” (John 7:19)
“Are you asleep?” (Mark 14:37)
“Do you love me?” (John 21:17)