There are three phases to life. In the first phase, you ask questions. “Why is the sky blue?” “Where do babies come from?” “Why does Uncle Jim have a wart on his nose?”
If you have ever spent time around children, you know they never stop asking questions. The weirdest one I ever got came from our youngest son. One day, he asked, “When are you and Mommy going to get a divorce?”
When I asked why he wanted to know, he said all the cool kids at school had parents who had divorced and remarried. These kids had multiple birthday parties and four sets of grandparents giving them gifts at Christmas time. No doubt, he wanted to get in on some of that action.
In the next phase of life, we think we know the answers, so we quit asking questions: “The sky is blue because of dust particles.” “Babies come from eggs being fertilized.” “The wart on Uncle Jim’s nose is caused by a virus.”
Then, life throws us a curve ball, and we spend the rest of our lives asking questions again: “Is this all there is to life?” “Did I ever find my purpose?” “How am I going to afford retirement?” And the question I’m sure my wife asks, “Why did my children turn out like their father?”
I am on an unexpected journey in my life. Sometimes, God draws you into one of these adventures so subtly you don’t realize the boat has been pushed away from the shore until you find yourself in the middle of the sea.
This journey started a number of years ago when I wrote a book with Marti Pieper called Rite of Passage Parenting: Four Essential Experiences to Equip Your Kids for Life, hence the name of this column. In that book, I explained that when we first see Jesus as a young boy in Luke 2, his parents had been looking for Him for more than three days. When they finally found Him, His mother scolded Him by asking a question: “Son, why have You treated us like this?” (Luke 2:48b).
Instead of answering her question, Jesus asks a question in return. “Why were you searching for Me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
Throughout the gospels, Jesus asked 307 questions. I am intrigued by these questions because on the surface, they look easy to answer, but the more you ponder, the more difficult they become.
I also love the fact that the word “question” begins with “quest.” A good question always sends you on a quest to discover truth.
I have been on a jury where someone approaches the bench and puts his hand on a Bible to answer the question, “Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” The bailiff asks this question right away, and then the lawyers get up and bombard the witness with still more questions.
In the Scriptures, Jesus is asked only 183 questions, of which He answers only three directly. Most of the time, He answers a question with a question or tells a parable that contains a question. No matter what, Jesus asked questions. Why? Because questions take us on a journey from knowledge to understanding.
Jesus was surrounded with people who had knowledge, but very little understanding. He asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29).
When Peter asked Jesus if he could walk on the water, Jesus gave him permission. But a few steps out, Peter began to sink, and Jesus had a question for him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31b).
And Jesus asked a Philip a question as the 5,000 hungry people pressed around them: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5b). Each of these questions has a surface answer, but Jesus was really asking, “Where we do we stand in our relationship with each other?”
If Jesus asked me, “Who do you say I am?” I would have to answer, “Lord, I know You are eternal, the Holy One, the Savior, and the list goes on and on. But in the end, all I know of this is so small compared to Who You really are. I don’t know what You are like in the heavenlies and how the angels will sing, ‘Worthy is the lamb,’ and even with that, I will fall short of answering Your question. And why do I have so little faith? Because I haven’t learned to trust You completely.”
Jesus was not asking a theological question. He didn’t want to know why Peter didn’t have more faith. He was asking, “Why isn’t our relationship stronger that you don’t even have faith the size of a mustard seed to trust Me to take a few more steps?”
And when He asked, “Where shall we buy bread?” He was testing Philip on what he knew about Him. Philip could have responded, “You are the Alpha and Omega; in You is everything we need. We don’t have to worry about buying food when God the Creator is standing before me in the flesh.”
It all comes down to three questions all parents need to answer for themselves and lead their children in seeking the answer to: “Who do you say I am” (Matt. 16:15), “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36), and “Why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). And you can be sure that answering these three questions of Jesus will send you on . . . a quest.