THE GREAT TEACHER: Jesus Taught with Use of Questions

Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored ninety-two books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Jesus was exceptional in his use of questions. Jesus would often ask questions when it would have been less time-consuming if he had just given them an answer, making the point that he so desired. What then was the reason he so often used questions. At times, he used penetrating questions to uncover the motives of his opposers, which would silence them. (Matthew 12:24-30; 21:23-27; 22:41-46) In most cases of Jesus asking questions, he did so in order to communicate truths, to get his listeners to reveal what was in their hearts, and to encourage interest and train the thinking of his disciples. Let us take a moment to look at two examples, both of which, involving the apostle Peter.

Matthew 17:24-27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

24 When they arrived in Capernaum, the ones who collected the double drachma tax[195] came up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the double drachma tax?”[196] 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth collect tolls or tax? From their sons or from strangers?” 26 And when he said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, so that we do not cause them to stumble,[197] go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel.[198] Take that and give it to them for you and me.”

Stumble, fall away, to be offended: (Gr. skandalizomai) In Greek, “stumbling block” (skandalon) was originally a device or trap, which contained bait, to ensnare or catch something alive. (1 John 2:10) It is used in the Scriptures as a trap, obstacle, or snare that stumbles one into sinning. (Rom. 11:9; Matt. 13:41) It can also be used as an obstacle that causes offense, resulting in opposition. (1 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 5:11) The Greek, (skandalizomai) refers to one who ceases to believe because of tribulation. (Matt. 13:21) It can also refer to one who is spiritually weak, immature in the faith, resulting in their falling into sin. (2 Cor. 11:29) In addition, it can refer to one who takes offense to some action. (Matt. 15:12) It can refer to one who causes another no longer to believe (John 6:61) It can also refer to something or someone who causes another to sin because they are spiritually weak or immature in the faith. (Matt. 5:29; Rom. 14:21) It can refer to another who is angered or shocked by something or someone, which could result in their sinning.–Matt. 17:27; John 6:61.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot

Note Peter’s impulsiveness, as he answered the tax collectors, “Yes.” However, a little later, Jesus reasoned with Peter: “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth collect tolls or tax? From their sons or from strangers?” When Peter said, ““From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.” The point that Jesus was trying to make to Peter should have been obvious. In Jesus’ day, the family members of kings were exempt from taxes. Thus, “Jesus is the Son of God, which makes him exempt from the tax, and Jesus’ disciples, who are now part of the Father’s family (12:48–50), are likewise exempt. This is a profound Christological statement, indicating not only Jesus’ relationship by analogy to his Father, the ultimate King, but also the way in which he is the fulfillment of the law. As there will be no temple sacrifice in the heavenly kingdom because of Jesus’ sacrifice (cf. Heb. 7:26–28), so there will be no temple tax for Jesus’ disciples.”[1] Notice that Jesus did not just give Jesus the correct answer, but rather he effectively but gently used questions to help Peter reach the right conclusion. In addition, if Peter thought more deeply here, he might have also concluded that he should take the time to think more carefully before speaking.

REASONING WITH OTHER RELIGIONS

Our second example involves an incident that took place on Passover night 33 C.E. when a mob came to arrest Jesus. The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49) Peter with his impatience again “struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.: (Luke 22:50) Here Peter rushed in, acting contrary to the will of his master, as Jesus was prepared to be arrested. What was Jesus’ response? Even under such intense moments, Jesus was ever patient, asking Peter three questions: “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”—John 18:11; Matthew 26:52-54.

Think for a moment on the account. Jesus is surrounded by an angry mob of people, knowing that they were seeking to kill him, with the weight of the issues of the sovereignty of his Father and clearing the reproach against his Father’s name and the salvation of humanity rested with him in this very intense moment. Even so, at that instant, he bought out the time to impress important truths on Peter’s mind by using questions. Is it not very apparent that Jesus recognized the value of questions? Let us look at one more account that involved questions.

Luke 10:25 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

25 And behold, a lawyer[2] stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

A historical note here, “a lawyer” or “an expert in the law,” (HCSB), is not a lawyer, as we would think of one today. A lawyer was someone who was an expert in the Mosaic Law. However, this person would have the same level of education on the law as a lawyer would today, many years of study and memorization. Thus, this man would certainly know the answer to such an easy question as the one he asked. Now, if a believer is asked an easy Bible question, we might be tempted to just offer an answer. Certainly, as THE GREAT TEACHER, Jesus could have easily answered the question. Instead, Jesus wanted the man to offer his own thoughts, insights or understanding. However, Jesus knew this man was “an expert in the law,” and he recognized the man would have had a certain perspective on his question. In other words, the man was not asked because he did not know. Thus, Jesus asked,

Luke 10:26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

26 And he said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

The man answered correctly,

Luke 10:27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

27 He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

The conversation could have ended there. Again, the man knew the Mosaic Law, but seemingly wanted to see if Jesus would agree with what he knew. Jesus gratified him, letting him feel good, by giving the correct answer. Jesus responded:

Luke 10:28-29 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Here again, the man looks to prove himself righteous, and Jesus could have just stated the truth, even the Samaritan. However, Jesus having insight into the setting, the Jews detested the Samaritans; so, while he would give the correct answer it would be disputed in a long, back-and-forth conversation, and the Jews who listened would have sided with the man. Thus, Jesus boxed the man into giving an answer by having him reason on an illustration.

Jesus Paul THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK

Luke 10:30-37 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and laid blows upon and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by coincidence a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And on the next day, he took out two denarii[3] and gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’

36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

This man had to admit the elite in the Jewish religion, the priest, and the Levite, had not been neighborly, but the Samaritan proved to be a good neighbor. Jesus moved him to reason out a new way of viewing exactly what “neighbor” meant. Instead of letting the man walk him into a long debate, Jesus made the man do all of the reasoning in the conversation and moved him to admit something no Jew would ever utter,[4] as well as grasp a whole new understanding of what it meant to be a neighbor. Jesus took this approach because the circumstances called for it. However, on another occasion, a scribe, another expert in the law, asked him the same question and on that occasion, he chose to give the direct answer. (Mark 12:28-31) Circumstances vary.

THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOKWhat lessons can we take in from the example that Luke provided us? (1) Jesus used Scriptures initially to answer the man’s question. (2) Jesus proved perceptive enough to take notice of the man’s agenda. (3) Jesus did not simply answer the easy Bible question but shifted the responsibility through a question of his own, by asking the man how he understood the law, giving him a chance to express himself. (4) Jesus complimented the man for a discerning with the correct answer. (5) Jesus made sure the man and the listeners made the connection between the initial question and the Scriptures. (6) Jesus used an illustration that was able to reach the heart and mind, where the answer was kept to the forefront. (7) Jesus moved the man to reason beyond his basic understanding of a neighbor.

How can any Christian obtain or develop more fully the skill to reason from the Scriptures? Several things are important: (1) One must have an accurate understanding of what the Scriptures say and mean. One must prepare for Christian meetings that one regularly attends. Regular personal Bible study, every day is necessary. (2) One must have a complete picture of the history of the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. This can be accomplished by studying through a book like the CPH New Testament Commentary volumes (Being Developed Now). (3) One must have an understanding of Bible difficulties, which run from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. This can be accomplished by studying THE OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE DIFFICULTY COMMENTARY and THE NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE DIFFICULTY COMMENTARY. (4) One must have an accurate understanding of Bible backgrounds of Bible times. One can accomplish this by studying THE OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE BACKGROUND COMMENTARY and THE NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE BACKGROUND COMMENTARY (Being Developed). (5) One definitely must understand how to interpret the Bible correctly. This can be accomplished by studying through INTERPRETING THE BIBLE: Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics by Edward D. Andrews (July 2016) and HOW TO STUDY YOUR BIBLE: Rightly Handling the Word of God by Edward D. Andrews (August 2017). (6) One must meditate and ponder the things he or she learns, mentally exploring the information from various perspectives, and appreciate the significance of them. (7) While one studies the Bible, look for not only clarifications of Scriptures but also Scriptural whys and wherefores for those clarifications. (8) As one studies, consider how to use the verses, to explain biblical truths to different groups of people. (9) Contemplate and ponder what kind of illustrations might be used to make biblical points.

[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 110.

[2] That is an expert in the Mosaic Law

[3] The denarius was equivalent to a day’s wages for a laborer

[4] Notice the hatred ran so deep between Jews and Samaritans that when asked by Jesus, who was the neighbor I the illustration, he did not say, the Samaritan, but rather, “the one who …”

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