As I listened to the meditation talk on Monday entitled Jesus the Teacher Lawrence Freeman emphasized that the answers are not as important as the questions. He emphasized that a good teacher knows that the important thing is to have their students ask questions. When we consider that the emphasis is usually on whether one has or knows the answer it forces you to re-evaluate how you look at things. The question was raised what is the good of knowing the answer if you do not truly understand the question. Answers in and of themselves are sometimes not enough. The example that was offered was that of a student that struggled with math. The student and his friends discovered that the teacher’s book contained the answers in the back and they further determined that there must be more than one of these books in existence. After some searching they were able to turn up another teacher manual which contained the answers to the questions and they bought it. Suddenly the math marks were greatly improved, until they got different questions. Having the answers was no good when the formula was not understood and the question as obscure as ever.
It is important to grapple with questions and it is fine to sometimes not have the answer. Questions lead us on a peculiar journey and force us to look at ourselves as well as struggle with the answer or the outcome. The answer is not always the same (unless it is math) as the question will be understood differently by each person and will have a different meaning for each person. Monday’s talk, Jesus as teacher, said that he was generally referred to as teacher, rabbi by many who encountered him and who still encounter him. Now consider his question to the disciples “Who do YOU say that I am?” Since it is not the answer that is important but the question I hear a different emphasis on the “You.” It becomes a personal question and not merely a question tossed out to the disciples on that particular day and in that particular conversation. It is a question to be struggled with and the answer – well it could be Peter’s, or what some of the general public were expressing. The question though is still one for personal reflection. After thinking about what others say then ask how would I answer?
This was also a timely question as this week’s confirmation class talked about “Who is Jesus” and the answers of the young people were statements of fact about, birth, baptism, ministry, death and resurrection. After much discussion I asked them to write in a few lines “Who is Jesus for you.” I am always pleasantly surprised by their answers and the deep thought that they are giving to our discussions. The answers were not text book perfect, nor were they the proclamation of Peter but they continue to grapple with the importance of this question and reflect on how it will impact on them as they continue to grow and be at their best.
The answers, as important as they are to us, are not as important as the questions. In this season of Advent as we prepare the way for the kingdom of God it is a timely question for us to ask of ourselves “Who do YOU say that I am?” …and the answer…well the answer is yours!