If you’ve spent time in the Gospels, you have probably noticed Jesus’ fondness for questions. He asks a lot of them; He asks a variety of questions in conversation with a variety of people. Have you ever thought about why Jesus asks questions?
Sometimes, it seems that He is interested in learning something from the person He asks. But often, it seems that He asks questions to nudge the person He is talking with to reflect on what is going on inside of them. He isn’t playing games; He is asking genuine questions. But He might be doing more than simply soliciting some information. Noticing that we might catch a glimpse of what He might do with us.
One clear example of Jesus’ “questioning ministry approach” can be found in John 5:1–9. (Take a moment and read that text.) In that passage, we see Jesus at a pool in Jerusalem. Around the pool were people with a whole variety of physical infirmities. They were there because, reportedly, an angel would occasionally stir the water, and it was believed that the first person into the water when it was stirred would be healed. Whether any genuine healing ever happened there, we don’t know. But that is why so many sick were gathered.
On a particular day, Jesus showed up and approached a sick man who had been bedridden for thirty-eight years. Seeing the man lying there, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” That’s one of those intriguing questions. When we first hear the question, we might think, “What a foolish question! Of course the man wants to get well. That’s why he is here at the pool!” But perhaps we need to think (and read!) more attentively.
Notice how the man answered: “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Think well about what the man is saying.
He’s been infirm for almost four decades. He sits, daily, at this pool. But apparently, he has no one to help him get into the pool. Does he have no friends? Is there no one to help him? Or has he given up on getting into the pool? Of getting the help he needs in order to get well?
Interestingly, the man didn’t simply say, “Yes! I want to be made well!” And that response might be helpful in thinking about why Jesus asked the question He did.
If Jesus heals the man, his life is going to change radically. He won’t be able to hang around the familiar setting of the pool, as he has for decades. He might have to find work, no longer relying on the compassion and pity of others. Everything about his days–up to this point in his life–would be altered.
So, Jesus asked: “Do you wish to get well?” “Are you longing for such a change in your life?” “Will you let me change who you are?”
Once we see that, it’s easy to think that Jesus might ask each of us a similar question. It’s not a random question. An encounter with Jesus will forever alter our lives. So, He asks: “Do you want me to change you? Mess with your life as you know it? Bring healing that will set your life on an altogether new trajectory?”
How will you answer, hearing Jesus ask you that question?