The Agora
Bible Editorials

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Finding the answers

There are many questions in life. Where and to whom does one go for answers? And what will you do when the answers are given?

Questions may deal with big issues or little issues. They can be general or specific. They might be on several levels: national, state, local, corporate, division, group, family or individual. But it's questions pertaining to life and death that are usually the most pointed, pertinent and profitable.

A question can be simply seeking information, or it can be aggressively challenging the status quo. It can be spontaneous, fluff, innocent, irrelevant... or thoughtful, philosophical, provocative, penetrating. A question can be a matter of form or procedure, or it can reflect a hunger and thirst for the right things. Life-changing questions are the most exciting (and the most dangerous), because their answers might convince a person to radically modify his/her thinking and behavior.

The motive of the inquirer is important. Does the person (a) really want to know? intend to do something with the answer? plan to change his/her mindset and lifestyle? Or is the asking (b) merely academic, with no intention of being convinced, much less converted? The fishermen from Galilee illustrate the first kind of seeking, and the Jewish authorities the second.

Consider the record in John's Gospel. John the Baptist was asking the right questions. He was privileged to baptize the Son of God and to introduce him to Israel as the Lamb of God (John 1:29-34). Andrew was asking the right questions. He was the first of the apostles to be convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:35-42). Nathaniel asked good questions too, and was swiftly convicted by Christ's answers (John 1:45-49). Nicodemus came by night with questions, and his life was forever changed (John 3:1-15; 7:50,51; 19:38-40). The Samaritan woman asked her questions at the well, and was persuaded that Jesus was a prophet of God (John 4:7-30). When other disciples stopped following Jesus because of his "hard sayings", Peter remained steadfast (John 6:60-69). His words express the issue succinctly:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed, and come to know that you are the Holy One of God."
On the other hand, the Pharisees sought to challenge the credentials and authority of Jesus repeatedly (eg, John 6:41,52,59; 7:14-52; 8:13-25; 10:24). But the record shows that they did not really want to know who Jesus was, or where he came from, or the source of his teaching, or the significance of his signs, or the consequence of their own closed minds. An excellent example of their obtuseness is found in John 9:13-41, where they refused to believe in the unmistakable witness of Jesus' healing of the man born blind.

Herod and Pilate are two more examples of questioners who really did not want an answer. They wanted compliance, not unyielding integrity. They wanted submission, not unnerving courage. They wanted acknowledgement of their power, not forthright truth. These presumptuous inquisitors refused to see Jesus for what he was, even though all the legitimate evidence pointed in one direction. The fate of these arrogant politicians was fitting. Pilate's career went down the drain shortly thereafter, and Herod was "smitten by God... eaten by worms, and died" (Acts 12:23) -- probably a very horrible death.

Do we really want to know the correct meaning of Scripture? If yes, that means reading the text for ourselves, asking tough, relevant questions, and heeding what we learn. Or are we content with the religion of our parents, the interpretation of our church teachers, or the writings of popular theological scholars? If yes, then there is no need to look or ask further -- but what a risk!

If our present understanding is correct, it will withstand any reasonable investigation. We will be pleased that our faith has been reinforced. And if our present understanding is found to be lacking, it can be improved. We will be glad that we investigated and that we have the opportunity for strengthening our faith. Either way, we benefit from "searching the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things be so".

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