Why oh why: don’t we give you a chance?
Why oh why: Put our life in Your hands
Why oh why: Are we afraid to say Your name
Why oh why: Is it because we want the fame
Why oh why: Did my homeboy have to take his life
Why oh why: That homeless man’s outside tonight
Why oh why: When trouble comes we wanna pray
Why oh why: Our country pushes You away
- Why, Kirk Franklin featuring Stevie Wonder
Asking questions allows us to understand another’s journey and how God is already at work in it. Today we’ll explore how to listen to someone’s story while engaging them with God’s story. We express love when we value others’ stories through listening, and listening also allows us to share the Gospel in a more meaningful way.
During the time of Jesus, Jewish rabbis traditionally used the method of asking questions as a foundation for learning. In the Greco-Roman world of philosophy, this is known as the Socratic method and educators today still find it effective for learning. According to one author, Jesus is recorded asking 339 questions in the Bible! What prompted him to ask so many questions? When sharing God’s story, we can forget to frame it in light of the story unfolding in another person’s life. How do we learn that story? We ask questions.
Jesus demonstrates the power of asking questions when he finds his disciples in the midst of a crisis. Jesus has just come from a powerful experience on a mountain with Peter, James, and John:
When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes disputing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran to greet him. He asked them, “What are you arguing with them about?” (Mark 9:14-16)
Notice that Jesus’ immediate reaction is to ask a question instead of take a side or add to the commotion. When someone else is facing a crisis or conflict in their lives, we may try to fix it before knowing the full context. In asking a question, Jesus invites those in the heat of the moment to take a break and talk about what’s happening instead of being ruled by the moment.
Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”
He replied to them, “You unbelieving generation, how long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, it immediately threw the boy into convulsions. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. (Mark 9:14-20)
By asking a question, Jesus shines a light on two problems. The first issue is serious spiritual oppression. The second is his disciples’ inability to heal the child. Interestingly, Jesus then exposes the deeper problem of his disciples, the crowd, and the boy’s father: a lack of faith. Despite the fact that Jesus has laid this problem out in the open, he continues the dialogue. .
“How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father.
“From childhood,” he said. “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him,” (Mark 9:21-22)
Prior to engaging in solutions, Jesus creates space for the father to tell his story. Jesus asks the father about how long his son has been suffering. The father proceeds to tell the heartbreaking story about how his son has been suffering for years. Throughout that time his family has been in great pain, fear, and misery. In our efforts to introduce people to Jesus, are we asking questions that reveal others’ backstories? Jesus transformed the atmosphere from contentious to calm simply by asking questions that both allowed the father to tell his story and revealed Jesus’ own compassion.
“But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him, “‘If you can?’ Everything is possible for the one who believes.”
Jesus asks questions that get to the core of the father’s issue: faith. This father had likely traveled far and wide to find help for his son, and now desperately approached the disciples clamoring for any hope. Instead of healing his son, the disciples engage in a theological debate with Jewish religious leaders. From the father’s perspective, the scribes and disciples had one thing in common: neither could help his son. The father turns to Jesus with a last gasp of hope: “if you can do anything, help us.” Jesus focuses in on the father’s response with a question, “If you can?” He explains to the father, that the primary issue is faith-based, not whether Jesus is the Son of God. The father strains under the burden of his son’s condition. Jesus acknowledges that burden, but a deeper one as well: the father’s failing faith in God.
Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that a crowd was quickly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you: Come out of him and never enter him again.” (Mark 9:24-25)
The father’s exclamation says it all: I’m struggling; I need help; I trust you Jesus, but I’m losing confidence. By asking these questions, Jesus pinpoints the father’s deepest need to all present–especially the father himself. Jesus demonstrates the power of questions in this: he wasn’t asking so he could know the answers, but so the father could.
Asking questions allows others to explore the reasons they struggle with faith. And often, like the father Jesus interacted with, these struggles have less to do with a theological dispute and more to do with personal challenges. Asking questions allows us to make connections between God’s story and others’ stories. Is there a crisis in the person’s life? Have they been hurt or disappointed by those who said they knew Jesus (like the father in this passage)? Are they aware that faith in God can comfort and give direction where doubt can only offer discouragement and despair? Let’s honor the people we plan to share the good news with by first learning the story dominating their own personal news cycle. Listening grants us a doorway to compassion and greater connection as we share the hope we have in Jesus.
- What are some reasons questions may have more power than answers?
- Why do you think Jesus asked the father questions before healing his son?
- Who are some people you can invite to tell their story?
- Write down some questions you can ask to discover someone’s story.
Written by: Rasool Berry
Edited by: Christina Utley