Jesus loves our questions! How can we apply this?

Hi friends, @Interested_in_Church,

Two questions for you:

  1. How can we create a culture in our church homes that welcomes and celebrates questions?
  2. How can we create a culture in our families that welcomes and celebrates questions?

In doing so, I believe that we will be imitating Christ.

Bob Grahmann, a Senior Missions Ambassador for InterVarsity, helped me notice the significance of Jesus’ love for questions in Mark 4:10-11:

And when Jesus was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables…”

I love this connection!

When the disciples expressed curiosity, Jesus gave them the secret of the kingdom of God!

What would it look like for us to imitate the example that Jesus provides for us in Mark 4:10-11? How can we apply this in our churches and families?

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@CarsonWeitnauer,

My feedback is more on the interpretation of that piece of scripture, which I think is more about Jesus answering the disciple’s question as to why He speaks in parables, then what it was Him inviting them to ask questions.
In fact, I think we see in Mark 4:13 that He is gently encouraging them to observe what is going on around them, taking stock of developments, think for themselves, and not ask so many questions,(at least in the context of that verse and surrounding verses), He is wanting them to develop discernment, I’ll elaborate a bit more below.

Mark 4:10-34 would be read in parallel with Matthew 13:10- 35 as they contain much of the same storyline and fill in some of the context and gaps that might be missing from each respective passage read in isolation.

We see in Matthew 13:10 that the disciples ask Christ why He speaks in parables.
His response in both Mathew 13:14-15 & Mark 4:12 is referencing Isaiah 6:9-10. So, we can assume that by His response in Matthew 13:14-15 & Mark 4:12, that when they asked Him about the parables in Mark 4:10, they were enquiring as to why He was speaking in parables, as is found in Matthew 13:10.

Isaiah 6:9-10 passage reads as follows:
Isa 6:9 He said, "Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
Isa 6:10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

And later on in the chapter Isa 6:13 says:
Isa 6:13 But yet a tenth will be in it, And will return and be for consuming, As a terebinth tree or as an oak, Whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump."

The Isaiah passage in Matthew 13 & Mark 4 that Christ mentions was God placing an act of judgement on Israel, He had shut up their hearts and minds to Him so that they could not find Him, He is giving them a cosmic hiding as a nation, and as we see in Isaiah 6:13, God will keep a remnant, a tenth of Israel for Himself.
And those who are contrite in spirit and humble and truly seek Him will be this remnant, and they will ultimately be brought back into a sweet relationship with God, as seen in Isaiah 66.

The Isaiah 6 passage would have been a “Remez” (a part that explains the whole) that rabbis used in their teaching. Everyone knew the story so well, that using one small part would bring about the whole understanding and full story into play with just a few words. Thus, the disciples would have known, or start to realize, that Christ was referring to something being revealed to them that had been kept hidden from Israel up until that point, and only those who were part of the remnant would have the ability to understand.

Christ mentions the “mystery of the kingdom of God” 1 Corinthians 2:7 & Ephesians 3:4-6 would explain the mystery, that the Messiah would be a simple man and not this mighty figure who would have complete political and military might as the Jews were expecting, dying on a cross (this being a stumbling block to the Jews – 1 Corinthians 2) to reconcile man to Himself, and while He’s at it, joining Jew and Gentile together in His body (Galatians 2).
The disciples would come to know the full extent of the mystery at a later stage.

Keep in mind that at this stage of Christ’s ministry His mission was still only the Jews – Matthew 10:5-6 – Matthew 15:24.

Later on in Matthew 13: 34-35 he references a prophecy from Psalm 78:2 once again stating that He will intentionally speak to these people in dark (obscure/ not easily understood) sayings, and thus between the Isaiah 6 and Psalm 78 reference He is telling His disciples that the He is the fulfillment of that prophecy and that Israel is still under judgement.

Mark 4:24-25 then goes onto say:

Mar 4:24 Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.
Mar 4:25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

He is saying to His disciples, to those who truly seek Him, and truly desire to understand by being open to what He is saying, and applying their hearts and minds to His teachings, as they progress in discernment and intentionality of obtaining the truth through discernment, more discernment and knowledge will be given to them.

In Summary, I think the Mark 4:11 verse is more about a validation/affirmation of the disciples truly seeking to understand and forming part of those that are contrite in spirit etc. and thus they have the ability to understand and will continue to do so.

Why did I spend an hour to elaborate on this? :wink: Because I think it should be even more encouraging to us that when we truly seek God and the things of Him, He will give us an individual ability to grow in discernment and understanding of His word. Certainly, this can come about by asking questions, but I think that is secondary to diligently reading & mediating on His word & praying. He wants us to have a deep and personal relationship with Him and He extends that to us in this very special way.

Lastly, this is also a good apologetic when chatting with Jews, because they will come to realize that the gentiles understand their God they profess to worship and know so well, better than what they do, and speak about and confirm the prophecy that was given to Isaiah, confirming the act of judgement, the fact that Christ truly was the Messiah, and thus hopefully bring about repentance.

P.S. I love the idea of everyone asking questions and getting them answered, absolutely not opposing that, my discussion is more about the interpretation of the Mark 4 verse.

Rgds,

DV.

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I love this question @CarsonWeitnauer :slight_smile: When I think of the parables that Jesus spoke about and his questions it makes me think of us mothers as we teach our children (and what a very important responsibility we have). I have a book that someone gave me before my son was born. The book is called: “A Mother’s Heart” written by Jean Fleming, and she gives an example of an event that she used as a teachable moment for her son. I think Mrs. Fleming’s method is similar to the loving way that Jesus taught. She said on p. 170:

"The teaching must be natural and often spontaneous. God doesn’t call us to give a polished presentation. He wants us to teach in the midst of the common, everyday situations we all face as we share life with our children.

Our son Graham once built a tall tower with his blocks. Higher and higher he went, until his edifice swayed, tottered, and came crashing down. The clatter of blocks was followed by a torrent of angry tears. Graham was overcome with frustration.

I remembered Proverbs 25:28 “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”

So I sat among the blocks and talked with Graham. After using the blocks to build a circular wall, I asked, “Graham, do you know why they used to build a wall around a city?”

We spent several minutes discussing the importance of a strong wall for a city’s protection in olden times. Then I repeated Proverbs 25:28 and suggested that his anger when his blocks fell made him like a city with its walls broken down – an easy place for the enemy to enter. Together we prayed that God would help him with his self-control."

I think that when we take the time during these everyday situations with our families and ask questions, we show that we care about what our family member is thinking. I pray that when the trials come and our family is not together that these “life lessons” as my daughter used to complain about still resonate with her.

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Hi @David_Vermaak,

That’s a really insightful and helpful addition!

I think it speaks both to not only answering the question but the questioner. And it helps us think through how we should build a culture that is open to people’s questions.

That is, as your post helps us clarify, the goal isn’t questions per se. The goal is encouraging people’s openness to and interest in knowing Jesus. Questions are one way that a prospective or actual disciple demonstrates their willingness to learn what it means to live in God’s kingdom.

It does seem to me that in these passages Jesus is rewarding and blessing the disciples for their questions and curiosity. When they want to know more (e.g., Matthew 13:36) he honors their curiosity.

At the same time, to your point, when people ask questions not to understand but to judge (e.g., Matthew 13:54-57), then Jesus discerns this heart attitude and does not engage further.

Either way, we see that the parables are a means by which Jesus reveals the hearts of his listeners. When they are open and receptive, and ask questions, he is willing to engage with them and provide further explanation. When they are closed and hard-hearted, even if they ask questions, he does not continue the dialogue.

My concern is that perhaps there are many people with open hearts, who are asking sincere questions, and we are not prepared or willing to engage with them.

@tabby68, thank you for this excellent illustration of what it looks like to be engaged with people’s questions in a kind and caring way. I particularly enjoyed this line:

I think that when we take the time during these everyday situations with our families and ask questions, we show that we care about what our family member is thinking.

It sounds to my ears like a rephrasing of Deuteronomy 6:4-9,

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…

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@CarsonWeitnauer I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role of questions in the Bible. As I heard one apologist say, “Jesus was fine with being questioned by John’s disciples.” Jesus did not always answer a question directly; sometimes answered with a question. But I think it is interesting that the God Who knows our every need bids us ask, seek, knock. “Ask and receive that your joy be made full.” The scriptures say Saul was judged because he inquired of mediums instead of inquiring of YHWH. (There is something particularly mournful about that verse.) The father of the prodigal son notes that his responsible son has never asked for the thing he wanted. Abram asks God what He could do for a childless man. Gideon asks the Angel of YHWH where all the signs and wonders have gone.

The other side of that is that Jesus asks His own questions. “What do you want me to do for you?” “Who do you say that I am?” “Why do you call me good?” And we see God posing questions throughout the Bible: to Adam and Eve, to Cain, to Job, to Moses, to Jonah, to Satan even, etc. The Angel of YHWH (which some interpret to be Jesus) also questions Jacob, Balaam, Hagar, Gideon, etc. God is interested in hearing our answers as well.

At any rate, I wish I knew more about nurturing question-welcoming culture. I think one thing is to try not to be flustered about not having the answers.

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Carson, I just wish that I could remember that I am answering the questioner. Oh boy do I fall too quickly into answering the question that I hear.
Thanks
Bill

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@billbrander l also wish I could remember that I am answering the questioner too. I am very guilty of being a “taker” instead of a “giver” and I have too many times let my pride get in my way of just patiently standing back and trying to empathize and know the person I am talking with. Too many times I have talked over someone to force my view or will on someone else. I don’t recognize how selfish I am being until I’m in a face to face conversation and see the other person’s expression, then I realize how I’ve completely taken over the conversation. Jesus knew people’s hearts, yet most of the time I don’t even know people’s pain and joy.

I sincerely apologize for answering anyone before thoroughly thinking a question through because I don’t ever want to cause someone to stumble. I love all the leaders and members here and hope to grow in God’s grace and learn to wait upon the Lord more.

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@tabby68 @billbrander
Not that I think the spectrum is well-understood, but I strongly relate to those who find themselves in the spectrum of processing modalities called the autistic spectrum. That certainly is not the only reason for focusing on the question, but I believe that it is a factor for myself, in the sense that I tend to answer people on the exact terms they ask–and it is impressive how little of the time people actually directly ask for the answer they are looking for. What is the answer the questioner is looking for? On a good (neurotypical) day it may still be very difficult to find out what that is. The questioner may have only a hazy idea of what he’s looking for. Or might think she’s being much more direct than she is and expects one to read between the lines. And if one can get past those hurdles, it could be that exposing the heart behind the question just feels too vulnerable, and he might actually be resisting being understood on a deep level.

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Hi @jvaughn,

I’m really moved by your reflections. I think a few things we can do are:

  1. Ask questions ourselves
  2. State that we welcome questions and a curious culture
  3. Listen well when questions are asked
  4. Affirm people for asking questions
  5. Add value in how we answer their question (perhaps with a question of our own!)

I am curious to hear other thoughts on how to build a question-asking culture in our churches.

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The depth of God’s word is so limitless that priests, rabbis, teachers, pastors, etc. are still plumbing it’s depths after several millenia.

“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.”
Psalm 1:1-2

Meditate here means ruminate–chewing the cud. I have the mental image of chewing and chewing until you know what to spit out and what to swallow. The formulation of questions seems pretty integral to that process and I’d be a lot more worried about a fellow sojourner that does NOT ask questions. We need to see scripture not just through our own lens but that of seasoned Christians and well studied Christians. We also need to see how things stand up against the life experiences of ourselves and others.

I think when asked a question I might respond something like:
That’s a great question, examining your faith is a wise move. I do it all the time. Is there anything in particular that has prompted this question? Do you have any ideas about what you think the answer might be? I don’t have a ready answer for you, but I’m curious too, let’s do some exploration and see what we can find.

After years of teaching adult Sunday School, I’ve learned the hard way not to act like I know an answer when I don’t. People trust you more as a source when they know you are more concerned about helping them find the right answer than trying to look knowledgeable. I finally figured out you lose credibility not when you profess ignorance but when you are wrong.

Another thing I learned is that it’s important to ask questions so you have an idea of their knowledge level. I was teaching on passion week content awhile back and it occurred to me to ask if everyone in the class knew what was meant by the Passover Feast. Several people did not, so we opened Exodus and started talking about the Israelite’s deliverance from Egypt and how this foreshadowed Jesus deliverance of the whole world. I’ve found that newer Christians usually start with the NT and can be fearful of the OT and it’s history because it can be harder to understand and feels less applicable to their daily needs.

If they had some ideas about an answer I always try to connect my answer back to theirs. This can prevent them from thinking I’ve run over their ideas with my knowledge. Somewhere there’s a nugget of what they’ve come up with that I can affirm to give them confidence in continuing to seek truth.

Enough of my rambling. Questions are wonderful. How awesome we have a God that allows us to approach his throne and a savior that affirmed sitting at his feet was the better thing than being busy.

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@CarsonWeitnauer, some good observations around that text.

One thing that particularly drives me is what you said below:

Blockquote

I agree with you, Christ certainly is prepared to answer the questions of those who are seeking Him, and so to should we.

I would be surprised if more than 10% of the people in churches I have attended (and these would be good quality churches by modern-day church standards) would truly be equipped or prepared to answer even the simplest of questions around the gospel, and why they believe in Jesus Christ.

I myself feel underprepared to answer the myriad of questions that the world has to ask. Obviously, we cannot know everything, but that certainly shouldn’t stop us to pursue knowledge as much as we can to answer the more common questions that are asked, and then there is always the opportunity to learn when you don’t know an answer to a question.

1 Peter 3:15 should be one of the driving/motivating forces for us to pursue knowledge first and foremost around scripture, and then secondly and somewhat in parallel understanding various worldviews to be relevant and informed to answer the world and other believers questions.

I look at Acts 17 when Paul addresses the Areopagus, he had walked around and “considered/observed/beheld” the objects of their worship. He understood what those guys believed in, he started with where they were in verse 23 and then starts to transition over to where he is by making them see in verse 24 how futile it would be to worship a god made with human hands in comparison to the one true God who created the heavens and then explains the deeper things of God in succeeding verses.

We can learn a lot from Paul in those few short verses.

Rgds,

DV.

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A person I met last week was telling me that they have a question time in their church after the sermon each week. I found this interesting.

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