Oct 16, 2008

your questions about the Question

Often I find myself in conversation with folks who have questions about God like I have over the years. They're good questions - and many times it has to do with a single issue... finding God and authentically connecting with Him.

Yet while these questions are often similar, they are especially unique on at least one level. Every one of us has a specific matter we'd like to take up with our Creator, and on any given day it may seem to change. Beneath it all, though, is a unique Question among the questions - a driving force that is more powerful than the thing we seem to come to the Lord with.

And that is where the real connection with God can happen.

In Mark 10, Jesus encounters a variety of people with a variety of "questions" - but see if you can tell what their main Question is.

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

"What did Moses command you?" he replied.

They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."

"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. (Mark 10:1-5)

Here is a group of Pharisees - a dominant group of religious thinkers among the the First Century Jews. These guys were believed to be religious experts (in a nutshell) and they came to Jesus with a question that seemed to be about divorce. But was it really?

Again, this was a group of rule makers/enforcers who enjoyed feeling like they had God's company credit card. If they said something and agreed upon it, then it was "so" among the people. One historian named Josephus cited how the common Jewish people allowed this group authority over them, and the Pharisees seemed to enjoy that.

One issue that many men in this era dealt with - including the Pharisees - was the quick dismissal of their wives into a divorce. It's a long issue in itself, but the bottom line is that if they handed their wife a certificate of divorce then "that was that" - and many abused that option.

Along comes Jesus, telling them that marriage is a bigger deal than when you get tired of someone and to treat it as such is to instigate the potential for adultery.

Again, though - was this matter simply questions about divorce? Or was there a deeper Question?

Just the other day I was trying to get one of my sons to obey something I'd asked of him. He asked back, "What happens if I don't?" I had to hold back the laughter - I mean, how many times have you and I done this as adults with God?

If we truly want to "find Jesus," perhaps we need to first let go of our desire to keep living life on our terms.
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
Amazing, isn't it? In such pure form a group of parents burst forward trying to have Jesus touch their kids. In some small way they're hoping that such a simple action will make a difference in their children forever. Only this time it's Jesus' disciples who get in the way - and Christ gives them a wake-up call about it.

A few days ago the question came up in our van (again from one of my boys) how we know if the Bible is true. Later on that evening, another question was raised about why there are so many different types of people in the world. These are questions that have answers, but because many people feel unequipped to answer them we usually tell kids, "Because the Bible says so."

That's a fair shot at faith, but does that at times... I wonder... get in the way of kids coming to Jesus?

Sometimes other people's "questions" raise a "Question" in us that we aren't comfortable with, and rather than pursue it into the deep end we cast it aside and settle back into the wading pool.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-22)

Yet again, someone comes to Jesus wanting to get an answer to a question... but the real Question is if all the good things he's done are what count. When he finds out that good deeds don't save you, the young man walks away sad. I've always wondered what became of him.

Because He doesn't set his agenda down to follow Jesus. He simply walks away.

So apparently he wasn't interested in finding eternal life... he just wanted to know if the way he'd been living his life on his own terms made the cut.

For God to be "God," He must be God.

That means that at the end of the day it is up to God to define who He is and how we have a relationship with Him. To insist upon your own way and hope it allows you to limbo under some bar of good deeds is to miss out on what it means to live a powerful life of trust.

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is[e] to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier
for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first." (Mark 10:24-31)

The disciples are starting to get worried after the rich man leaves - they want to know if their sacrifices to follow Jesus matter. So they ask, "Who then can be saved?"

Have you ever wondered that? Maybe you're someone who puts a lot of time into helping others find God and you want to know if what you're doing matters.

It does. It so significantly does. And the reward from God will one day blow us away.

Someone today reminded me of how tempting it is to do nothing because we're afraid of our weaknesses and imperfections spoiling something of God. And yet He invites us anyway to pitch in, for if we don't the Church (and ultimately the world in need) will never know our strengths.

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise."

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.

They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."

"You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" (Mark 10:32-38)

Two brothers... gotta love this sibling dynamic. they're planning out the scope of their life and eternity here because they believe that one day Jesus will have everything set up and He'll need some muscle to run His kingdom. (Unfortunately for them, Jesus has a much different idea of being a King that involves serving like a peasant)

Their question seems to be about who gets to sit where, but it would seem as though their deeper Question is all about security and identity. I wonder how many of our questions track back to that...

for only the artist gets to give an identity to his painting, and only the chef gets to give a lasting name to his created meal, and only a Creator gets to tell all of creation who and what it really is... even if that very creation insists differently.

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he
heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 48Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." 50Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:46-52)

Finally, something clear. Jesus asks, "What do you want?" The blind man says, "I want to see."

And Jesus gives the man sight.


Perhaps today it can be that clear for you and I.

Perhaps today you and I will avoid all of the little questions and ask the big Question.

For if you do, perhaps you and I will find ourselves surprised with an Answer from Jesus.

Just don't confuse your questions with the Question.

Because what you think you want to know may actually be a distraction to what you really want to know.

So... Jesus stands before you and asks...

"What do you want?"

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