Jesus Won’t Answer Your Questions

We live in a world where we want answers and we believe that we are entitled to them. The rise of technology and modern science has predictably produced a desire to know the answers and to know them quickly. This world-view is often imported into the way we think about spiritual things. The idea that is that religious thought and theological systems should serve us the way technology and science do. Mystery and “not knowing” are anathema in our modern world.

However, with our modern insistence on answers, we frequently miss out on authentic relationship with a God who is mysterious and who brings us into touching infinite realities. If we demand the knowable and tidy answers, we can’t relate appropriately to an infinite God. By definition, God is ultimately unknowable in an intellectual sense. (note: we can know a lot about God!) However, at the same time, He is knowable in an experiential sense. When we demand “answers”, we run the risk of two things: first, not truly experiencing God, and second, experiencing or “relating” to something that is less than God.

The good news is that the way Jesus interacted with people during His days on earth is incredibly instructive regarding our search for answers and certainty. It has been noted that Jesus was asked 183 questions in the gospels and He only directly answered 3 of those questions. (see Larry Crabb, class notes School of Spiritual Direction 40, June 2011; “The Questions of Jesus” by John Dear) Apparently, Jesus didn’t like to answer questions.

Jesus directly answered the question in Matthew 27, “Are you the king of the Jews?” However, just two verses later, He refused to answer a question (remember that He was silent before His accusers – 1 Peter 2). In other situations, He answered a question with a question as in Mark 10:17. (“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?”) The parable of the Good Samaritan was in response to question (Luke 10). Often Jesus answered questions with a response that reflected what He wanted a person to know, not what they thought they wanted to know. In still other accounts, Jesus referred to an Old Testament passage that would have led the questioners to much different conclusions than expected.

The list of examples could go on and on, but the bottom line is that Jesus apparently didn’t want to give people answers. He wanted people to think and draw their own conclusions. He wanted to transform people’s thinking and world-view rather than spout out theological truth that would receive a simple “agree” or “disagree” response.

Richard Rohr comments that, “In general, we can see that Jesus’ style is almost exactly the opposite of modern televangelism or even the mainline church approach of ‘Dear Abby’ bit of inspiring advice and workable solutions for daily living. Jesus is too much the Jewish prophet to merely stabilize the status quo with platitudes.”

Much of what Christians do in our modern world is thoughtlessly throw out theological truth that does not transform; it merely provides lines in the sand. Perhaps, we would be better served to respond to questions with questions or obscuring truth a bit in order to understand what people truly want. Remember that Jesus spoke in parables (He explained in Mark 4) because He didn’t want people to know some of the things He was talking about. People often ask us questions that are not really what is going on in their lives. People often ask questions to bolster previously adopted views and draw their own lines in the sand. As followers of Christ, we are encouraged not to argue people into belief and trust in Jesus but to lovingly get to know people’s hearts and share how Jesus has affected who we are, step by step as we are able to address people’s hearts and souls.

In addition, many Christians do not have vibrant, growing relationships of intimacy with the God of the universe because the desire for answers has over simplified and stripped them of relying on God in the face of mystery. There are so many things that we can’t answer. For example, why is there suffering? Honestly, many theological answers use logic but either strip the goodness or sovereignty of God from the discussion. Theological systems can make nice, neat boxes but God cannot be contained in a nice, neat box.

Jesus didn’t want to give answers because He wanted to have relationships with people. Relationships are shrouded in mystery and intrigue. He desired relationships in the days He walked the earth and the same is true today.

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~ by Ted Wueste on September 5, 2012.

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