Recently, I was pleased to attend Challenge A training at one of Classical Conversations’s summer Parent Practicums. One of the main goals for Challenge A is to harness the power of the question and, to that end, we learn to develop excellent questions which will spur powerful discussions and engender growth among the students. As a preacher and teacher of the gospel, I have been growing more excited about these growth opportunities as the weeks pass and as I understand more about the Challenge program and materials.
During my training, something sparked my thinking concerning the use of questions. In CC, everything centers on our Savior, Jesus Christ, so I began pondering. I thought of Jesus’s early life as a boy—how did He learn? And I thought of His later ministry—how did He teach?
How Did Jesus Learn?
Coincidentally (providentially?), I had recently preached the last half of Luke 2, which expounds three unusual events in Jesus’s early life; all three happened in the temple. The third event, you may recall, occurred when Jesus was twelve years old, one year before He would have enjoyed His bar-mitzvah (becoming a “son of the commandment”). Even at twelve years old, He demonstrated extraordinary acumen in the area of theology. Luke 2:46-47 describes the temple learning environment in this way: Jesus was “sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”
In this temple-discussion environment, Jesus’s questions, no doubt, did not comprise simple inquiries. These were leading questions designed to teach and from which to learn. Jesus sat among these well-trained teachers and conversed with them using the Socratic Method so common in His day!
Interestingly, at twelve years old Jesus was about the age at which our own children begin to launch into their argumentative years, in which they ask many (often challenging) questions. Luke quickly affirms in his text that Jesus remained under His parent’s authority (Luke 2:51)—He did not challenge their parental position in any way, but He was learning, growing, asking, and even leading others to truth at such an early age!
How Did Jesus Teach?
Especially noticeable in Matthew’s gospel, I discovered that one of Jesus’s favorite teaching tools was the question. He would stretch His students’ and challengers’ minds by asking them to ponder a quick point.
Some scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” because Jesus had forgiven a man’s sins. Jesus asked, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?” (Matt. 9:5). How would you answer? Jesus quickly followed His question with, “Arise and walk,” and the man arose, rolled up his bed, and went home! Jesus’s question leads us to ponder His authority and power.
On another occasion, some Pharisees challenged Jesus’s disciples because they were plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath. To Jesus they complained: “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” Jesus responded with a favorite question, “Have you not read…?” (Matt. 12:3). His aim was not to get them to read their Bibles, but to recall a familiar event in biblical history and apply it correctly to the current situation. Of course they knew the story, but they failed to connect with its practical value. Jesus followed “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry…?” with “Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” (Matt. 12:3-6). Think hard and apply Scripture properly!
A little later, Jesus led the Pharisees through a series of questions designed to reveal truth, expose their error, and evaluate a situation correctly. They had charged Jesus with being under the influence of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons (Matt. 12:24). So Jesus asked:
- If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?
- And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?
- But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
- Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?
Soon after this, Jesus queried His disciples (Matt. 16:13-15) in order to draw out a confession of the truth:
- Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?
- But who do you say that I am?
Jesus, the master teacher, used the question as a living, effective educational tool. Questions spark thoughts which would have otherwise never flickered. A well-aimed question can begin a dynamic discussion, exposing and illuminating truth. “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” (Matt. 17:25). “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?” (Matt. 18:12). “Why do you call Me good?” (Matt. 19:17). “The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (Matt. 21:25).
Jesus, teach us to harness the power of the question! Help us teach ably and effectively. Help us lead our own children to truth and equip us to share the gospel with our neighbors.
What do you think? How does it read to you?