Jesus is famous for asking questions in the gospels. Questions deserve answers. It is why they are a powerful part of any teaching. Too many questions and you overwhelm someone. Questions that are overly simple, and you get the easy Sunday School answers. Learning how to ask questions is an art perfected with practice. But who better to learn from than our Master, Jesus? After looking at all the questions Jesus asked, I’ve grouped them into 10 categories, with 3-4 examples from the TNIV with each. Think about them as you prepare for your next small group.
Jesus asks rhetorical questions that expect a certain answer. He expects that those listening will already know the answer to the question, and yet he uses it to reinforce his point. So it’s not a question for dialogue, but for teaching. Examples:
- You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? Mt. 5:13
- If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? Mt. 5:46
- And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Mt. 5:47
Jesus asks questions about why people (sinfully) act the way they do. He doesn’t let them justify their actions as okay, but asks why they live in a sinful way. Whereas we would be prone to ask whether or not a person struggles with sin, Jesus knows they do and asks them about it directly.
- Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye”? Mt. 7:3-4
- Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Mt. 9:4
- Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do the things I say? Lk. 6:46
Jesus asks questions that force a decision or a concrete answer. They are line-in-the-sand moments that cut across our tendency to waffle, equivocate, or hold things in tension. For Jesus, some things cannot be held in tension. You are either all in or out.
- John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men? Mt. 21:25
- Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill? Mk. 3:4
- If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say? Jn. 5:46-47
Jesus asks questions about our desires. He knows that what we want is as important as what we do. He wants to help us get behind actions to motives.
- What do you want me to do for you? Mt. 20:32 (asked of two blind men who had called out for mercy)
- Do you want to get well? Jn. 5:6
- Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments. Mt. 19:17
- What is it you want? Mt. 20:21 (asked of James’ and John’s mother)
Jesus asks questions that force people to revisit the Scriptures. They thought they understood it, and Jesus tries to illuminate and correct their reading. He especially does this to the religious leaders. Sometimes it is to help them see that it was written about Him, and others to see the intended meaning.
- Is it not written in your Law, I have said you are gods? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken—what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Jn. 10:34-36
- What is written in the Law? How do you read it? Lk. 10:26
- Have you never read in the Scriptures…? Mt. 21:42
Jesus asks questions about our lack of faith and understanding. After a miracle or a teaching, He was so often misunderstood. Asking the question reminds those watching and listening that they are missing something.
- (To Peter) You of little faith. Why did you doubt? Mt. 14:31
- Are you still so dull? Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? Mt. 15:16-17
- Where is your faith? Lk. 8:25
- Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Jn. 8:46
Jesus asks questions about His identity. People were always asking about whether He was a prophet, demonized, from God or not. He asks people to tell Him who they believe He is.
- Who do you say that I am? Mt. 16:15
- What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is He? Mt. 22:42
- Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Jn. 14:9
- Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me? Jn. 18:34
Jesus asks questions about our priorities. We all tend to place other things of value in the spot reserved for God alone. Jesus knows this and challenges us to let them go.
- What can you give in exchange for your soul? Mt. 16:26
- How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? Jn. 5:44
- Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Mt. 6:27
Jesus asks questions after/as a parable to drive home his point. The audience has to choose a character from the parable in answer to His question.
- What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? Mt. 18:12
- Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? Lk. 6:39
- Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? Lk. 10:36
- Tell me, which of them will love him most? Lk. 7:42
Jesus asks questions that demand a commitment to Him. In a time following a difficult circumstance, Jesus doesn’t miss the opportunity to call for complete commitment. He knows people will be tempted to walk away from Him, and asks them to reaffirm their commitment.
- You do not want to leave too, do you? Jn. 6:67
- Do you believe in the Son of Man? Jn. 9:35
- Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these? Jn. 21:15…