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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jesus Rarely Answers Questions…

I’ve been reading through the Gospel of Mark with some of my church members, and one of the things that we’ve noticed is that Jesus rarely answers questions.

And no…answering a question with a question does not count.  

And if Jesus does give an answer that isn’t just another question, it’s often a non-sequitur into something else.  By my count, Jesus only answers about 27% of the questions put to him – and some of those answers are not really very clear.

Jesus’ Answer

Man possessed by evil spirit
What do you want with us…Have you come to destroy us?
Be quiet!
Teachers of the law
Why does this fellow talk like that…who can forgive sins but God alone?
Why are you thinking these things?  Which is easier: to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘get up, take your mat and walk’?
2: 7- 11
Pharisees [to the disciples]
Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?
It’s not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.
2: 16 -17
Some people
How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?
How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?
Then something about sewing patches, and putting wine into old wine skins…
2: 18 – 22
Why are they [the disciples] doing what is unlawful [picking grain on Sabbath]?
Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?
2: 24 – 26
Don’t you care if we drown?
[To the storm] Be quiet!
4:38 – 39
Garasene man with demons
What do you want with me, Jesus?
What is your name?
5:7 – 9
People of Nazareth
Where did this man get these things?  What’s this wisdom that’s been given to him?
Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.
6: 2 – 4
Are we to go and spend that much [8 months wages] on bread and give it to them to eat?
How many loaves do you have?  Go and see.
6:37 – 38
Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders…?
Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites….
7:5 – 6
Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?
How many loaves do you have?
8: 4 – 5
Came and began to question Jesus… they asked him for a sign from heaven
Why does this generation ask for a sign?
8: 11 – 12
Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?
To be sure, Elijah does come first…why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?
9: 11 – 12
Why couldn’t we drive it [spirit] out?
This kind can come out only by prayer.
9:28 – 29
Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?
What did Moses command you?
10:2 – 3
Asked Jesus about this again…
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her…
10: 10 – 11
Young Man
Good teacher, what must I do to be saved?
Why do you call me good?  You know the commandments…
10: 17 – 19
Who then can be saved?
With man this is impossible, but all things are possible with God.
10: 26 – 27
Chief Priests, teachers of the law, and the elders
By whose authority are you doing these things?  And who gave you the authority to do this?
John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me.
11: 28 – 30
At the resurrection whose wife will she be…?
Are you not in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God?
12: 24 – 25
One of the teachers of the law
Of all the commandments, which is the most important?
The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
12: 28 – 29
Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?
Long answer – lots of strange signs..
Short answer – No one knows about that day  or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
13: 4 – 35
Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?
Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.  Follow him.  Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘the Teacher asks: where is my guest room….?’
14:12 – 16
Surely not I?
It is one of the Twelve…one who dips bread into the bowl with me.
14: 19 – 20
High Priest
Are you not going to answer?  What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?
Jesus remained silent and gave no answer
14: 60 – 61
High Priest
Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?
I am.
14: 61 – 62
Are you the king of the Jews?
Yes. It is as you say.
Aren’t you going to answer?  See how many things they are accusing you of?
Jesus still made no reply.
15: 4 - 5


  1. "And no…answering a question with a question does not count."

    When I'm teaching I very often answer a question by asking a question back. If my question helps one of my students students find their own answer to their initial question, I suspect they'll remember the answer better than if I spoon fed it to them.

    The questions Jesus is asked in Mark's gospel might be artificial creations to structure Jesus traditions, of course, but I wonder not giving a straight answer to questions might reflect the way Jesus actually taught?

  2. I often overstate my case, as i have here.

    I understand that responding to a question with a question is a solid way of communicating and teaching,

    but it can be frustrating
    especially for those who have the idea that Jesus / God will answer all our questions, give us all the answers... and not expect us to think for ourselves.


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