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Our Lord’s Questions (1)

C Logan, Botswana

Questions form a major part of our communication with one another. We are taught in school to ask questions to gain knowledge and deepen our understanding. A child’s persistent "Why?" can be tiresome, and yet posing questions is a vital part of learning. In adult life every day finds us asking questions and being questioned ourselves.

The questions our Lord asked

During His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus Christ asked many questions. These are recorded for us, predominantly in the Gospels. The exact number we find will depend upon our definition of a single question. Sometimes two or three are grouped together in one phrase, e.g. "What thinkest thou, Simon? Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?" (Mt 17.25). As an approximation we find over 90 questions in both Matthew and Luke, about 60 questions in Mark, and 50 in John.

We must state immediately an important truth and vital distinction between the Lord and ourselves: He never asked questions because He lacked knowledge or understanding. He used questions to provoke people, whether friends or enemies, to search their own hearts and consider their position before God. The Lord already knew what was in their hearts and the individual need of each person (Jn 2.24-25).

He also knew that the deceitfulness of the human heart has often led men and women to deny or obscure the truth. When sin marred the human race in Eden, God sought after the man and called out to him, "Adam, Where art thou?". A number of other solemn questions followed. Would Adam and Eve own up and confess their sins? Sadly, they made only feeble excuses and attempted to blame others.

Since that dark day men and women have glossed over their sins and feigned a righteous outward appearance. The Lord always probed beneath the surface to expose the true condition and the need of guilty sinners (1 Sam 16.7): an accurate diagnosis always precedes an appropriate cure. The Saviour was not willing to overlook the reality of their plight and allow them to perish. He came so that those who were dead in their sins might have abundant life.

Of those who followed Him

Most of our Lord’s questions were directed to the disciples as a group and asked in a general way: "Whom do men say that I the Son of man, am?" (Mt 16.13). Individuals were also addressed: Peter, "Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?"; Philip, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me?"; James and John, "What would ye that I should do for you?" (Jn 13.38; 14.9; Mk 10.36).

As the Lord trained the twelve He sought to teach them about the Father, Himself, the Holy Spirit, and their own blessings and responsibilities as the children of God. Often these questions were of a rhetorical nature. Although the Lord did not expect a direct audible answer, His intention was that His listeners should be challenged and face up to these questions in their minds and hearts. He wove such questions into the fabric of His teaching for several important reasons.

Correcting misconceptions

When He addressed the disciples on a mountain in Galilee, He sought to encourage them to trust God for their daily provision and not be over anxious about food and clothing. He wanted them to remember that God would look after their interests if they looked after His: "Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?...if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" (Mt 6.25,30).

Addressing the thorny matter of ceremonial defilement, the Lord explained that defilement comes from within. No doubt, sensing that this was a completely new concept for the disciples to grasp, He challenged them in this way: "Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him?" (Mk 7.18).

On another occasion when the disciples showed the Lord the buildings of the temple, He taught them of momentous events concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and God’s future dealings with Israel and the nations. They had thought that such a magnificent structure as the temple would be there forever. The Lord said to them, "See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Mt 24.2).

Challenging faith and devotion

Once, when the Lord saw a large crowd approaching, He asked Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?". The Scripture says that this was done to prove Philip, "for he himself knew what he would do" (Jn 6.5-6). Both Philip and Andrew baulked at their meagre resources but they were to learn that, in the hands of the Master, five barley loaves and two small fishes could satisfy more than five thousand hungry people, with plenty to spare.

From time to time the Lord gently but firmly rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith: During two separate storms He said to them all, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?", and to Peter, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Mt 8.26; 14.31). When they were anxious about their lack of food, He said to them, "O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? (Mt 16.8).

One of the most poignant incidents concerned a restored Peter. After the resurrection the Lord asked him on three occasions, "Lovest thou me?" (Jn 21.15-17). This led to a commission that moulded Peter for the rest of his life. He went on to become a fearless preacher of the gospel and devoted shepherd who cared faithfully for the flock of God.

To be continued.


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