What do the following questions have in common?
What do you want?
Who are you looking for?
Why are you so afraid?
Who do you say that I am?
Do you want to get well?
What do you want me to do for you?
Why do you call me good?
Do you love me?
What do they have in common? They are all questions Jesus asked during his earthly ministry. We often think that Jesus is the answer to all of life's big questions. And while that is true, reading through the gospels, as one author states, perhaps it's more accurate to say that Jesus is the question.
Here are a few stats to explain. In the gospels, Jesus asks over 300 questions, 307 to be exact. He is asked 183 questions, of which he only answers 3.
This naturally raises the question, why? He's Jesus after all. He has universal and eternal wisdom. Why not come dispensing that wisdom and answering everyone's questions?
This raises another question, what does this have to do with discipleship? (After all, we are in the middle of a series exploring the "how" of discipleship.)
Like my friends at Gravity Leadership say, "God is so real, He most fully meets you where you are." Now at one level, that might seem like an odd statement. Essentially, it’s saying that God meets us in reality. And in response, we might say , "Well, yeah. Of course He does. Where else is He going to meet us?"
However, many of us work really hard to avoid reality or to project an image of our lives that isn't real at all. Here’s what I mean.
When I was a youth pastor, one of the best youth group meetings I ever led was a night when during our small group time, a group of high school guys openly expressed their doubts about Christianity. One kid even said that he definitely wasn't a Christian and had a hard time making sense of it all.
The next morning at the office, I told our senior pastor about it and how it was the best youth group night we had had all year.
He was confused and asked why. He thought I was celebrating that these kids didn't have faith.
I said in response, "I've known for the last two years that these kids don't have faith. It's evident when you look at their lives, the way they talk, the way they treat each other, and the things they post on Facebook." Jesus says you'll know a tree by the fruit it produces. Their fruit wasn't that great.
During the previous year, each night they would come to youth group they would, at all costs, avoid talking about whatever lesson I had planned. They would goof around and be disruptive, or they would just give pat answers because they thought that's what I wanted to hear. Needless to say, there was zero spiritual growth or transformation in their lives because they weren't being honest with me, themselves, or God about where they were.
The reason I was excited about their honesty was because they were exactly that, honest, for the first time ever. When we are honest about where we really are, whether it’s about our doubts, fears, insecurities, or unbelief, Jesus meets us there. Then and only then are we able to authentically grow in our faith.
It’s kind of like the guy in Mark 9 who says to Jesus, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief” (v24). He’s owning up to where he really is and Jesus is present with him in that moment.
So, why does Jesus use questions more than answers when it comes to engaging with people? He tries to lead people to be honest about what they want, what they really believe, and why they're afraid? He goes for the deeper reality of the heart that we readily mask over.
When it comes to discipling others, we can't really lead people – and by leading them, I mean lead them to Jesus (see last week's post to fully grasp that statement) – until they are honest about where they are. And based on what Jesus models, asking questions rather than offering advice is the best way to lead people to an honest place.
There are times to give answers, to teach, to be directive, and instructive. Jesus does a lot of that in His ministry as well. But as disciple-makers, we need to have the wisdom and discernment to read people and their situations, and lovingly help them be honest about where they really are, all the while believing God will meet them there.