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Luke 10:36

Posted 05/18/22, by Dan Vis

So far, we've looked at a couple teaching methods used by Jesus, that contributed to His incredible effectiveness. First, His use of present truth, connecting prophecy to current fulfillments, and especially to His own life and ministry. And second, we see His use of parables, or stories, to guide His message through, past prejudice and other mental barriers.

Today we look at another of His most striking and powerful teaching methods. And that is, His use of questions. Take for example, today's verse:

Luke 10:36
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

Most people will immediately recognize the context. Jesus had just told a story in answer to a question asked Him, regarding who we should count as our neighbor (Luke 10:29But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?). The story involved a man who "fell among thieves", that robbed him and left him naked and injured, and in fact, "half dead" (Luke 10:30And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.). Then a priest comes by, and then a Levite--neither of which stop to help him. And last, a despised Samaritan who went out of his way, rescued the man, "and took care of him" (Luke 10:34And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.). And then today's question: which of these three treated him like a neighbor?

Using a story like this forced them to think outside their normal prejudices and preconceived ideas. But the question magnified that stories impact--forcing them to come to a point of decision. They had to choose some response. In this case, they couldn't even say the correct answer (the Samaritan), and could only mutter instead, "he who showed mercy". But the point had already been made: treat others--all people--as we ourselves would want to be treated.

Of course, Jesus asked questions in all sorts of situations--and not just in connection with parables. Sometimes they were rhetorical questions to make a point: "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" (Matthew 6:27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?). Or "do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matthew 7:16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?). Or, "what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?).

Sometimes He asked questions to encourage introspection, and self-discovery. "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" (Mark 4:40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?). "What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?" (Mark 9:33And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?). "Will ye also go away?" (John 6:67Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?)? "Couldest not thou watch one hour?" (Mark 14:37And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?). "Simon ... lovest thou me?" (John 21:17He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.). We would all do well to contemplate these kinds of questions now and then ourselves!

Some of my favorites are those questions He asked in response to questions asked Him. When a group of Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus with a question about paying taxes to Rome, He had them hold out a penny, and asked "who is this image and superscription" (Matthew 22:20And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?). That question reframed the whole discussion in a totally unexpected way, and ultimately "they marvelled, and left him, and went their way" (Matthew 22:22When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.).

When asked by what authority He taught there in the synagogue, Jesus answered: "I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things" (Mark 11:29And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.). He then proceeded to ask them a question they dared not answer: "The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?" (Mark 11:30The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.). And when they admitted they couldn't say, Jesus responded: "Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things" (Mark 11:33And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.). Of course, by that time, they had already worked out the answer in their own mind. Jesus was operating by the authority of God.

Bible scholars have calculated that Jesus asked more than 300 questions, as recorded in the Gospels. And no doubt there were hundreds of additional questions not recorded. Clearly it was an important part of His teaching method.

It's also worth noting that generally speaking, Jesus didn't ask these questions because He lacked information. Rather, as one pastor put it, He used them the way "a surgeon uses a scalpel" to gently cut into hearts and minds, and help people unlock new insights and discoveries, on their own. And His questions often still have power today. There are not many things more beneficial spiritually, than simply spending time with Jesus and answering His questions for ourself.

And if we want to be more effective as teachers, we would do well to learn how to ask penetrating questions when teaching others. In fact, I'm convinced, good questions are the most important part of teaching. It is almost always more powerful than simply telling a person something. Questions force those we teach to arrive at answers on their own. And answers we arrive at like that, tend to stick with us.

That's the power of questions...

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Posted by Dan Vis on 05/19/22
Posted by Doug Schoch on 05/18/22
Questions are powerful teaching tools. They help us to think and reason.
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/18/22
Yes, that is what a good friend does Barbara, isn't it? They could blast us, of course, with their opinions--but in love they ask questions to help us think through our issues ourself. And for that matter, that's a primary approach of most counselors too. To ask questions. And when we help people resolve their own issues, those issues are far more likely to stay resolved!
Posted by Barbara E. LaRose on 05/18/22
Amen, a powerful lesson and so true. I’ve had people do the same to me. Ask a question and it wakens me up to really look at myself and find the question out for myself. A great learning tool. Jesus was our greatest teacher and such a loving one too!
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/18/22
Yes, that's what I was thinking too Colette. The story/question relationship was kind of like a sermon/appeal kind of thing. And it was definitely effective.

But even without stories, questions should be a core part of our teaching. I remember when first starting out as a Christian finding this amazing small book on how to lead a small group Bible study guide (haven't been able to find again). And it was almost all about how to use questions to guide your group through the discovery process. Later I developed my own system for preparing a SS class for example, based on that same approach. And from there, went on to try and use questions in many other contexts.

As a lifelong teacher, who has long loved questions--I still marvel at how amazingly Jesus used them. Wow!
Posted by Colette Guthrie on 05/18/22
I like the progression from stories to question. It's like an appeal at the end of the sermon. A call to action on a social media post. I am also seeing that we need to listen for the answers!

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