Nurturing Elders and Others:
When Jesus is the Question!?
By The Rev. Paul Graves | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In a recent interview on National Public Radio, a young, country music singer spoke of “being religious” at one point in her life and being raised by “religious” parents. Then the young woman lost her faith for a time.

The reason she identified was that no one gave her “answers for my questions.” She also mentioned being discouraged from even asking questions.

I wonder if she was told by her religious elders that “Jesus is the answer.” That seems to be the well-meant, if clichéd, response by some people who are uncomfortable with any kind of faith-questions. My tendency is to offer a seemingly flippant response to “Jesus is the answer”: “What is the question?”

But I don’t mean that question to be disrespectful and flippant. I mean it to provoke the other person to think a bit more about promoting Jesus as THE answer when the question may not even have been asked yet.

Here is a little-known pertinent biblical factoid: Did you know that Jesus asks 307 different questions in the four Gospels; yet he only answered three of the 183 questions he is asked? (Note: I asked a question rather than made a statement! Questions are ‘in’ today!)

This factoid isn’t one I created. I lifted it from a blog written by Martin Copenhaver, a United Church of Christ pastor in Wellesley, Mass. His point – and mine – is that Jesus seemed more interested in prompting people to think for themselves via his questions. “Jesus is the question.” Seriously!

In another recent blog, Monsignor John Pope, of the Archdiocese of Washington, shared 100 questions Jesus asked in the Gospels. I just printed the list after finding it by Googling “Jesus is the question”. In this small sample, you’ll be familiar with some of these, others maybe not so much:

  • Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan? (Matt. 6:27)
  • Which of you who has a sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath will not take hold of it and lift it out? (Matt. 12:29)
  • Do you not yet understand? (Matt. 16:8)
  • Did you never read the scriptures? (Matt. 21:42)
  • Why are you thinking such things in your heart? (Mark 2:8)
  • Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I command? (Luke 6:46)
  • Do you say [what you say about me] on your own or have others been telling you about me? (John 18:34)

Sometimes Jesus’ questions were meant to directly provoke his listener(s) to think a different way. At other times the questions challenged a particularly irritating (to Jesus, anyway) behavior of the listener. Whatever his purpose, Jesus’ questions always pushed the listener to think for himself.

Hopefully, Jesus’ questions do that for you too! Unfortunately, too many of us have lost that desire to think for ourselves. We give that right away to others who are more than willing to tell us what Jesus wants us to do or what God’s will might be for our lives.

One of my favorite authors is a Quaker pastor, Phillip Gulley. I receive his “Grace Talks” e-newsletter, consisting mostly of sermons/presentations he has recently made. In his current issue of Grace Talks, he says this in his series on Spirituality and Religion: “Here is why certainty in religion is dangerous. When religion emphasizes answers, when having an answer is all-important, a bad answer will suffice as well as a good one.”

OUCH! The truth of that hurts.

Please answer this for yourself: If Jesus was so much into asking questions of his followers or his challengers, why are we so afraid to ask questions of ourselves or of religious/spiritual “authorities”?

Another question: as an older adult, do you want the freedom of “advanced years” to throw caution to the wind and actually ask questions about life and religion you were reluctant to ask years ago?

I want that freedom! I hope you do too!

The Rev. Paul Graves serves as the chair of the Conference Council on Older Adult Ministries.


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  1. Very fine, theologically sound article, Paul. To be faithful is to ask questions of and about God and all that is sacred. Thank you!

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