Questions as Answers
We are fixated on answers.
Our collective intolerance of uncertainty feeds a deep need to find absolute answers to all our questions, to be right while pointing out those who are wrong, to pretend that life can be made risk-free if we just know enough of the right stuff. Our minds become the tip of the spear that we believe will save us from our fears. This may work well for the physical sciences and train schedules, but when it comes to matters of spirit, we need to think again.
Do you know how many questions Jesus asks in the gospels? It’s amazing that people actually count these things, but nice that we can look them up. Jesus asks 307 questions. More importantly, 183 questions are asked of him. Of those 183, he directly answers…three. Just three. For every question Jesus answers directly, he literally asks a hundred. He answers every question of course, but most often with another question. Sometimes with a story or an object lesson. But every answer is geared to stop questioners in their tracks, stop the logical flow to which they are addicted by challenging the often unconscious assumptions that drive the questions themselves.
Jesus is much more interested in questions than answers and is perfectly comfortable with questions serving as answers. Life is made of uncertainty. The questions we most profoundly want answered are unknowable in this life. Jesus knows that the life he lives and envisions for each of us doesn’t flow from answer to answer, but from question to more incisive question. Direct, declarative statements as answers don’t take us on journeys, and Jesus is all about engagement in a process of questioning that constantly refines the scope of what is true.
Every indirect answer Jesus gives, every story and non-sequitur, every question-as-answer is an opportunity to see into a world based on love instead of logic, where the rules of our assumptions about life are exposed as roadblocks to the life we long to live.
Even when Jesus is simply asked where he is staying for the night, his answer, come and see, is an invitation to experience what can never be expressed in an answer made of words.