On a visit to Washington, D.C., in 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat met a group of journalists in Blair House, on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the White House. A rookie reporter in the back of the room, Wolf Blitzer, raised his hand and said, “Mr. President, you seem so sincere in your quest for peace. Why don’t you do something to demonstrate that to Israel? Perhaps you could open some direct human contact with Israel?”
No one had posed such a question to Sadat, but he had an answer. “I myself have no objection to this,” he replied. “But, believe me, our people are not yet ready for this after 29 years of hatred and four wars and bitterness…. We must take it gradually.”
Yet that question, according to Sadat’s later account, germinated in the back of his mind for months and eventually led to his groundbreaking trip to Jerusalem to address the Israeli Parliament, Knesset, which paved the way for the 1979 Peace Treaty.
Jesus’ Masterful Answers
Jesus’ Masterful Questions
Jesus’ Masterful Purposes
“Questions,” said Blitzer, recalling the incident, “can change lives. And the right questions at the right moment can even influence history.”1
Every day is filled with questions, from serious ones (“Will you marry me?”) to silly ones (“Why is abbreviated such a long word?”). There’s always someone in the crowd asking questions. Questions can help us make friends with total strangers, and they can draw us closer to our loved ones. They can get to the bottom of vexing problems, and they can provide solutions to emotional or organizational issues. The right questions penetrate our souls, so we can better understand ourselves, our hang-ups, and our circumstances.
Some people have made a fortune asking or answering questions. Just ask Ken Jennings. He is the highest-earning American game show contestant in history, having earned $5.2 million, primarily on Jeopardy.
Jesus’ Masterful Answers
Nothing compares to the richness of the answers Christ gave to the questions posed to Him. His words are more valuable than gold, and many of them arose from questions from crowds, critics, strangers, and disciples. Jesus spent His life fielding questions from people.
Taylor Holmes researched this subject and, according to his studies, Jesus answered 113 separate questions in the Gospels. Of those, He posed 52 of them Himself, giving the question and providing the answer. The other 61 answers came in response to queries from others.2
- Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?
- How can a man be born when he is old?
- Where then do You get that living water?
- Lord, to whom shall we go?
- Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
- Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?
- Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?
- By what authority are You doing these things?
We can still ask the Lord questions—when we don’t understand, when we have a need, when we are hurting, when we need help. Asking questions is a vital part of praying. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you…. (Matthew 7:7). James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). John said, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).
Some of our questions will be fully answered only in eternity. There’s an old hymn we used to sing, written by Adam Geibel after his son-in-law was killed in a steel mill explosion. Geibel brooded over his and his daughter’s pain until a voice seemed to say to him, “Child, you do not understand it now, but some day you’ll understand.” Out of the experience, Geibel wrote: “Some day He’ll make it plain to me, / Some day when I His face shall see; / Some day from tears I shall be free, / For someday I shall understand.”
Yet even now, here, in this life, the Lord often imparts answers to us when we ask Him, and that’s why we should incorporate questions into our prayers. Question-asking is a form of prayer. The psalmists wove many questions into their prayers: Why do the nations rage? What is man, that You are mindful of him? Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can declare all His praise?
The Lord never minds our questions.
Jesus’ Masterful Questions
Nor is the Lord Jesus hesitant to ask questions. When we think of a famous sage whose teaching method consisted of asking questions, we think of Socrates. But Rabbi Jesus mastered the power of question-asking better than anyone who has ever lived.
Pastor Martin Copenhaver recalls a friend asking him, “Have you noticed that in the Gospels Jesus asks a ton of questions? In every situation, He’s asking questions. I think Jesus may have asked even more questions than Socrates ever did.” Intrigued, Copenhaver studied the Gospels and listed every question posed by Jesus. He found 307 of them.
Our Lord’s first recorded words were in the form of questions: Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?
That was just the beginning.
- Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
- Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?
- Why do you think evil in your hearts?
- Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?
- Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?
- Woman, where are those accusers of yours?
- Which of you convicts Me of sin?
- And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?
“Smart questions make smarter people,” wrote Frank Sesno in his book Ask More. “We learn, connect, observe, and invent through the questions we ask. We push boundaries and we discover secrets. We solve mysteries and we imagine new ways of doing things. We ponder our purpose and we set our sights…. Questions—asked the right way, under the right circumstances—can help you achieve both short-term and lifelong goals. They can open doors to discovery and success, bring you closer to a loved one, and even uncover answers to the universe’s most enduring mysteries.”3
No one knew how to ask questions better than Jesus—or how to use them.
Jesus’ Masterful Purposes
Many of our Lord’s questions were rhetorical in nature. He used questions to make people think, to force them to examine their lives, and to search their hearts for answers they had not considered before. Their impact wasn’t simply limited to those to whom He spoke during His brief span on earth. Jesus’ questions echo through the epochs and reach our hearts today.
In the 1800s, an English vicar named William Haslam tried to preach the Gospel, but he himself was not truly born again. He depended on church rituals to save him, but he had never trusted Christ for true salvation. He was appointed as the village priest in a rural area to the north of Cornwall. As he preached and worked among the people, he was like a blind man leading the blind. But gradually the Lord brought Haslam under true conviction, and one Sunday he decided to preach on the question in Matthew 22:42, KJV: “What think ye of Christ?”
As he spoke, his inner conscience was telling him, “You are no better than the Pharisees.” But as he kept preaching, his face changed, his heart leapt upward, and something happened within him. A man in the congregation, seeing the change, stood up and shouted, “The parson is converted! The parson is converted! Hallelujah!” Instantly the several hundred attendees began praising God and singing the Doxology. At least twenty people were saved that day, and others were saved as news spread of the preacher who had been converted by his own sermon, which was based on the most important question we can ever ask or answer: “What think ye of Christ?”4
What do you think of Christ? What do you think of His questions? Of His answers? And what questions do you have for Him?
Jesus welcomes our questions and He longs to hear our answers, for whenever we have a question-and-answer session with the Lord Jesus Christ, our lives are truly changed—no question about it!
This article was adapted from an issue of Turning Points devotional magazine.
1Wolf Blitzer, in the foreword of Ask More, Frank Sesno (New York: Amacom, 2017), xvii-xviii.
3Frank Sesno, Ask More (New York: Amacom, 2017), 1.
4William Haslam, From Death into Life (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1880), 60-61.