What Can You Learn from Jesus about Asking Great Questions?

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Why did Jesus ask so many questions? 

Whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, you would all do well to study the “communication practices” of the one that many believe to be the greatest communicator in all of history.

Jesus communication style focused on two things:  He told great stories and asked great questions!

I don’t know about you, but I ask a lot of questions because I do not know the answers.  That was never true of Jesus.  He knew all of the answers and yet he focused so much of his interaction with people on asking them questions.  The four Gospels record 339 questions that Jesus asked. 339QuestionsJesusAsked.com

Why do you think he asked so many questions?  I am asking you!  Please take a couple of minutes to list 3-5 reasons you think he asked so many questions?

Here are a few that I have come up with:

  • Engagement
  • Questions built relationships
  • Forced those he was interacting with to have to think
  • Created conversations
  • His listeners were more likely to own their own conclusions
  • He sometimes answered questions with questions of his own
  • He sometimes asked warm up questions to get the conversation started

Jesus asked so many different kinds of questions:

Questions to make a human connection:

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)  John 4:7-9 

Questions that caused introspection:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  Luke 6:32-36

Questions that addressed worry:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  Matthew 6: 25-30

Questions that gave balance to their grievances with others:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  Matthew 6:3-4

Questions to make an argument:

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”  Mark 3:4

If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  Matthew 18:12b

Warm up questions:

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”  They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”  Mark 8: 27-28

In general people love to talk about others and will almost always quickly respond when you ask them about other people.

To the point questions:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”  Mark 8:29

Questions that revealed inadequacy:

His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”  Matthew 15: 33-34

Questions that reminded them of what they already knew:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  Matthew 19: 3-5

Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” Mark 12:10-11

My favorite question:

“What do you think? Matthew 18:12

Questions that asked for opinion:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”  Luke 10:25-28

Questions that allowed people to voice their own needs:

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”  Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.  Matthew 20:29-34

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:49-52

Clever questions:

Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”  When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.  Matthew 22:17-22

He answered questions with questions

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”  Mark 11:27-33

Questions that asked his listeners to tell the point of a parable:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Luke 10:36-37

It is easy for us to miss the real brilliance of this question because in our culture we have no hatred for Samaritans.  But in Jesus’s day the Jews hated the Samaritans.  Those living in northern Israel would take the long route to Jerusalem simply to avoid going through Samaria.  So when Jesus asks “Who was the neighbor?” there was most likely a long pause before the Jewish expert in the law replied and almost certainly it was very difficult for him to verbalize that the “Hero” of this story was a Samaritan when he hated all Samaritans.  Jesus could have told this story and ended by stating: “Therefore the Samaritan was the good neighbor” but instead he brilliantly asked the expert in the law to answer, knowing how potentially powerful answering that question might be in his life and the lives of the others present.

Questions that asked people to consider the cost:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  Luke 14:28-32

Questions that called forth commitment:

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:66-68

Questions that restored the disciple who denied Jesus three times:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”  John 21:15-17

So what are your “Leadership/Communication Take-Aways” from Jesus about Asking Great Questions?

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