Who were your favorite teachers? Odds are they weren’t the ones who simply lectured and acted like they knew all the answers. The best teachers are those who ask the best questions.
As I read through the gospels I’m amazed by the questions that Jesus asked. In fact, if you keep reading in Luke 2 after the birth story, the next time we see Jesus is as a 12 year old boy. He ditches his family in Jerusalem after a festival and spends three days alone in the city. Surprisingly, his parents find him in the Temple carrying an in depth conversation/debate with the religious leaders. They were amazed by his understanding that was revealed in the questions he asked.
People asked Jesus questions all the time. But let’s take a look at some of the questions Jesus asked of others. They are the same questions, I believe, that we are asked today.
Let’s begin in John 1. Check out this story:
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
First of all, John the Baptist amazes me. He knew when it was time to hand off the ministry. He didn’t hang on to his own authority or influence. Once Jesus came on the scene, John gave him his full endorsement.
Second, did you catch the question Jesus asked these two potential disciples? It’s hard to tell from the text what kind of nonverbal communication accompanied that question.
Did he ask, “What do you want?” with a hint of cynicism?
Did he ask it like a grumpy old man opening the door to some kids participating in a school fundraiser?
Did he ask it with the gentleness of a grandparent when a grandchild comes bounding up into their lap?
Did he ask it with the charming sincerity of a store owner to a new patron?
Did he ask it with a squint in his eye and a pensive furrow on his brow?
Was he pushing them away or was he welcoming them in?
I think Jesus asks each of us the same question whenever we decide to become his followers. It may put us on the defensive. It may take us by surprise. Maybe we’ve never thought about it before. Maybe we don’t have a good answer, so we stumble over our words as we try to form a coherent reply.
What do you want?
What do you hope to gain by following Jesus? Some of us may have been baptized because all our friends were doing it. Maybe we wanted to be able to have the cracker and juice that always get passed around during worship. Maybe we wanted to win the approval of our parents. Maybe we just REALLY didn’t want to go to hell, so we made the decision before it was too late – better safe than sorry! Maybe…
Maybe we have forgotten.
What do you want?
If you were able to approach Jesus today, here, now, and he asked you that question – what would you say? You see him sitting alone at the coffee shop. You walk up to his table just wanting to say Hi. Before you can get a word out, he looks up and asks you that same question: What do you want?
Would you ask for a miracle? Would you ask for forgiveness or a second chance at something? Would you ask him a question that’s been burning in your mind for years? Would you want him to give you reassurance of a loved one’s final destination? Would you ask him to repeat that whole water-to-wine trick?
What do you want?
Some people want power. This is like when James and John asked if they could have the places of honor at Jesus’ right and left hand when he came into his kingdom. Some people see Jesus as a means to their own end – authority, influence, power, persuasion. People have wielded an extraordinary amount of power over others in the name of Jesus. Is that what you want? To feel important? To be respected? To control others?
Some people want possessions, more material wealth and luxuries. They read all the promises and blessings in the Bible that suggest a high standard of living in exchange for faithfulness. Maybe if they follow all the rules then God will owe them something. If they “name it and claim it,” then all their financial woes will be over, and they will be living their best life. Is that what you want? More stuff? A bigger home? A nicer car? More toys?
Some people want healing. Or forgiveness. Or therapy. Or a sense of belonging. Or the ability to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Some people want to serve others. Or become civil activists. Or combat poverty and disease.
Some people want a Get-Out-of-Hell-Free card.
What do you want?
That’s the first question Jesus asks, and in many ways it is the most important question to ask ourselves when we consider following Jesus.
What do I want? What do I expect?
These two disciples didn’t ask for any of that. I am amazed at their answer – which is itself another question: “Where are you staying?”
They don’t ask for any thing. They just want to be with Jesus. They want to hang out. He invites them over, and they just chill together for the rest of the day. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
You see Jesus in a coffee shop. As you approach, he asks, “What do you want?” You reply, “Can we just hang out for a while?” And the two of you shut the coffee shop down, just talking and lounging over countless cups of dark roast.
Would that be enough for you?
What do I want? I want the heart of these disciples who are content to simply be with Jesus. They didn’t want anything from him. They wanted him. They wanted his presence. Spending time with Jesus was enough for them.
Is it enough for me? Is it enough for you?
“What do you want?” asked Jesus.