Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Question Is The Answer

I love to watch "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", a hilarious improvisational comedy TV series hosted by Drew Carey (see picture).

The show consisted of a panel of four performers who create characters, scenes and songs on the spot, in the style of short-form improvisation games. Topics for the games were based on either audience suggestions or predetermined prompts from the host.

One of my favourite games is where the performers are given a scenario e.g. on an international flight, and each performer has to play a different character and the trigger for all the hilarity that follows is this: ALL the dialogue must be in the form of a QUESTION.

What's so funny about that? Why don't you try holding a conversation with someone for 5 minutes with both of you speaking in questions only? Still don't know what I'm talking about? Why don't you watch the video?

(In case you are unable to open the video, please click here to watch it on youtube)

OK, are you done laughing yet?

Are you ready for this?
Ready for what?
Do you know that Jesus did the same thing?
You gotta be kidding, right?
Do I sound like I'm joking?
You are angry with me, aren't you?
Why do you keep answering me with a question?
Isn't that the rule of the game?
Who's playing games?
You mean you're not?

Arrrrrrrgh! Stop! Game over! Let's get serious.

Look at the passage of Luke 2:41-52.
Jesus was in Jerusalem with his family and relatives to celebrate the Passover. When it was time to go home, Jesus did not follow his family but stayed at the temple. After searching for three days, Jesus' parents finally discovered him at the temple sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. (vv46-47)

Read Luke 2:46-47 again. Jesus was asking questions but the teachers were amazed at his answers! If we read this passage through our modern day eyes, we will be confused; Jesus was asking questions, not giving answers. Our modern day understanding is that we ask questions because we don't know the answer.

However if we read this passage using Jewish spectacles, then everything becomes clear. You see, in bible times the rabbi engages his students in sophisticated discussion about the Torah by first asking a question.

The student then attempts to answer the question by asking a question in return. The student's question reflects how well he has understood the rabbi's question in the first place. Thus the student's question is actually his answer!

This is like a verbal tennis match with a question returned with another question. As you can see from the game above, it is very tough to keep the rally going. This requires both the student and rabbi to know the Torah inside out from memory. That was why the teachers were amazed at Jesus' answers/questions.

Now look at Luke 2:48-49 (NLT)
48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” 49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus answered his mother's question with 2 questions! To our modern day eyes, it looks like 12-year old Jesus was being rude to his mother but if we see this in the Jewish setting, we see Jesus showing incredible wisdom.

In essence, Jesus was saying to Mary (in not quite so many words),"Mum, I understand that you are worried over your 12-year old son but if you had remembered whose son I truly am and what I must accomplish, you should have come looking for me at the temple, my Father's house."

This is one of the lessons I learnt from the "Behold the Man" dvd series. Even though the New Testament is inspired in the Greek, NOT Hebrew or Aramaic, it is so important to filter it through Jewish lenses so that the fullness of the scripture can be appreciated.

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."


Angie said...

wow! this is so revelational! Where did you say you got the dvd from? :p

Stanley Wong said...

Hi Angie,

I ordered the dvd set for US$75 at

It's worth every single cent :-)

Angie said...

Tks for the lead! There's a coupla of interesting books too :)

Jeffrey said...

Thanks for the insight bro.

I guess Jesus was not just a great communicator but a great listener,for Him to ask all the right questions.Rather then conclude for them and giving them all the answers,He allowed them to explore and discover and come to their own conclusions about the truth.

Sometimes I fall into the trap of talking too much and listening too little.It takes skill and wisdom to ask the right questions.

The Gospel of Grace is such Good News that we just want to give everything at one go.

My wise wife advised me against sharing with her friend's husband (staunch idol worshipper)about the Gospel when we visited this couple a few nights ago.I met them for the first time.

We know that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation and at the right timing he will come to know the Lord.

Keep up the great work bro.
Hope you can make it for the next gathering.