Pay Attention to Questions
People say so much with their questions. You do this. Jesus did this. Questions are a superior way both of telling, learning, and teaching.
Brady asked 50 questions in the two miles from my house to his school. They were in staccato, one after the other, with no real time to answer any of them.
I never really understood why in the television game show Jeopardy the contestants had to answer with a question: “Who is George Washington?” But it does illustrate how questions can often be answers.
Jesus specialized in questions. He often answered questions with questions. This was the style of the rabbis of that day. And it remains a key teaching tool—the right question.
An attorney’s cross –examination is all about the questions. The proper question can open up a world of truth.
Choose to Listen:
“How can you…?”
We live in the noisiest time in human history.
- We are surrounded by sounds throughout your day. Some of the noise is simply white noise—power lines humming, traffic on the interstate, brakes screeching on the bridges, horns blowing on the river.
- You may disappear into your own intellectual world with headphones that block outside noise and tune your brain only to what you have chosen to hear.
Listening is part of conversation.
- To converse is to have a discussion between at least two people. Half of that conversation is listening to what the other person has to say.
- Jesus did not dominate this conversation. In fact, Jesus did not dominate any conversation in the New Testament. When he was preaching or teaching, his speech was long and uninterrupted, as with the Sermon on the Mount. But when he was conversing, he was listening as well as speaking. This conversation in John 4 is a good example of how Jesus talked with people.
- Jesus Prompts the Question with his request for a drink along with his general style of openness to the woman. He knows all the answers—and all the questions. Yet he enters into a meaningful conversation with this woman, hearing her questions and her concerns.
Listening is hard work for many of us.
- Take off the headphones, eliminate distractions.
- Turn your head toward the one with whom you are conversing, and give them your attention.
- Pay attention not only to words but also to body language.
- Graham’s accident set him back in his speech. He was already slow to vocalize even before his near-drowning. But during those two months when he was in the hospital and recuperating, he stopped watching our lips as we formed words. Infants and toddlers pay very close attention to how you make the sounds that come out of your mouth. It is how they themselves learn to make those sounds. I was very relieved when he began again to watch my mouth when I was speaking to him. And he is working hard and exercising a lot of patience and determination today as he works to make himself understood.
Listening is a gift of time and attention. It is one way of saying, “I love you, and you are the only person in my world for these minutes we have together.”
Understand the Question:
“How can you…”
The question of the Samaritan woman is translated in various ways. You may have noticed that Jesus’ question to her is not always translated as a question, but “Give me a drink.”
- Her question, too, is phrased in various ways. Some translations include in her question the sentence, “You are a Jew and I am a woman of Samaria.” Ancient Greek and Hebrew did not include punctuation. We have to determine if it is a question from the context and the phrasing.
- Her question indicates that she is curious about Jesus and intrigued by his behavior. She is also surprised, and she wants to know more about him.
Some questions are rhetorical. They do not want an answer.
- An older gentleman called the office and asked to speak to me. He was very insistent. I picked up the phone and the caller identified himself as a stranger from somewhere in the country. He asked, “What does the Bible say a person must do to go to heaven?” He told me he was asking this question of many preachers. I responded, “You are not asking me a question, sir. You already are certain you know the answer. You want to tell me what you think. So tell me.” He told me that we go to heaven by keeping the commandments. I told him it was only by God’s grace through the work of Christ upon the cross.
Some questions are traps. They are intended to trip you up.
- This was the nature of several questions put to Jesus by his enemies. One of them his particularly fitting to remember on April 17, the question about taxes: “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Luke 20:22).
- Jesus answered brilliantly: “Render unto Caesar …”
- His enemies twisted his answer and at his trial accused him of teaching that Jews should not pay Roman taxes.
Some questions are dismissive: “What is truth?” Pilate said to Jesus. He left the room with his question hanging in the air.
Some questions are sincere, and they need to be answered if they can be.
Listen for the Activity of God
We will soon see that this Samaritan woman is ready for a spiritual conversation and a spiritual transformation.
- Jesus knows this about her.
- We can perceive the work of God in her as we read through this text.
- We follow the model of Jesus as we are engaged, sensitive, and perceptive.
One of the gifts God produces in us is discernment, a sense of his activity in people and circumstances.
Questions may be windows to the soul. Many questions stir in our soul when God begins to work in us, convicting us of sin and calling us to himself.
- Questions about church life. The questions children and grandchildren ask may be of utmost importance. When your child asks, “Can I get baptized?” or “Why can’t I take the bread and the cup?” those questions need to be answered. They may indicate the beginning work of the Spirit in that child’s life.
- Questions about the Bible.
- Questions about morality.
- Questions about spiritual language: “You must be born again,” Jesus said to an expert in the law.” And Nicodemus responded with a question, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (John 3:3-4).
- God is at work in Nicodemus. He is on his way to becoming a disciple of Jesus.
Maybe you know that God has been at work in you, drawing you to himself. Now would be a great time to respond to what God is doing within you by trusting in Christ.
Maybe you need to return to God from the distant place where you have been. Why not make a new commitment to Christ today? Come and pray with us and by coming indicate your desire to return to the Christ who loves you and bought you with his blood.