Jesus Christ, knowing all things (Jn 16:30), is always asking questions; it’s not because He doesn’t know the answers: He’s giving us unique opportunities to understand, leading us to new insights and answers.
For example, when Simon Peter is pondering whether he and Christ are obligated to pay the temple tax (Mt 17:24), Christ leads with a question: “What do you think, Simon? Do kings tax their own children, or strangers?” (25) The answer is obvious to Peter: “Strangers,” yet it’s the same question. Since the temple is God’s house, Christ’s own Father, He and the disciples are exempt. (26) Why is the question more effective than just telling Peter the answer?
In the Garden, as He’s being betrayed, Christ asks Judas two penetrating questions — as Judas is in the very act of committing the greatest crime in history: “Friend, why have you come?” (Mt 26:50a) Christ knows perfectly well what Judas is doing (46), so why the question? How is this better than just confronting Judas and accusing him?
The second question: “Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Lk 22:48) The deed is done, but really? With a token of affection and loyalty? You thought this through?
Judas doesn’t answer either question, which is telling. He’s been deceiving himself, and is fully committed to walking in darkness. These questions were light in his darkness, showing himself to be what even he himself could not tolerate, (Mt 27:3-4a), and likely brought Judas to the end of himself. (5)
When Christ is exposing Simon the Pharisee, He tells a simple parable and asks Simon to interpret it. (Lk 7:41-42) Again, the answer is unmistakably obvious (43), and Christ agrees. Yet the parallels to their present relationship are undeniable, forcing Simon to face the coldness of his own heart, revealed by his own confession.
Christ asks us these kinds of questions because we need to consider them and look inside for answers. We know a whole lot more than we might think; if we’re seeking hard truths about ourselves, God reveals them to us through our own spirits. (Pr 20:27) When we ourselves come up with the answers it’s much more natural to accept them.
So, how do we emulate the Master here? How do we help folk find answers to the toughest, growth-spurring questions rather than spoon-feeding them? Perhaps by loving others enough to really care about helping them understand, rather than impressing them with our own knowledge. Perhaps by investing, taking time to get to know our audience, to understand them, listening, studying their strengths and weaknesses, asking God for wisdom to use common sense in illustrating spiritual reality.
And we must understand what we’re talking about, well enough to ask the right questions, surgically pointing others to God’s answers. We must study to show ourselves approved, not to men but to God. (2Ti 2:15)