We have 100 examples of Jesus asking questions. It raises the question. Why did Jesus ask so many questions?
One of the classic examples of Jesus using a question to teach is found in Luke 9.18 where Jesus says, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
Why did Jesus ask this? Did he not know? That could be. When he became human, he set aside some of his god-ness. In another context, he said he did not know the day or the hour when he would return. I think it is more likely, however, that it was a teaching moment for the disciples.
This is what I call a warm-up question. It is a get-em talking question. I write small group curriculum for a living. I start nearly every lesson with this kind of question. It is a question to get the group to start talking.
People have said to me, “I have tried using discussion questions and my group doesn’t want to talk.” Do what Jesus did. Get them talking about somebody else. People love to talk about someone else. I think this is why Jesus asked them about what other people thought. It is always easier to talk about what other people think than to share our own convictions or feelings.
Once Jesus got them talking, Jesus narrowed the focus: “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter declared one of the most profound statements in the entire Bible: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
Stated a different way, Jesus led the disciples to hear one of the most profound statements in the entire Bible. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Question: why did Jesus craft this centrally important teaching in the form of a question? Why not just say it to his disciples: “I am the Christ, the son of the living God!” It would have been a lot safer that way.
A lot of teachers don’t like questions because they are into safe and they know that questions are not safe. You ask a question and you have no idea what kind of answer you might get. If you make a statement, you can carefully craft it so you know exactly what you are going to say.
On this occasion of teaching one of the most centrally important things in all the Bible, Jesus chose to use the teaching method of a question.
Jesus knew when Peter declared him to be “the Christ of God,” that Peter would be changed by this declaration.
Jesus taught that we are changed as much by what we say as what we hear. Mark 7:15 (NIV) “Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’” “What comes out of a man”—what a man speaks is what makes him clean. We are changed by the truth when we speak the truth. When Peter declared Jesus to be the Christ, he believed ever more firmly that Jesus was the Christ.
This is why the Bible makes a big deal about “if you confess with your mouth.” (Romans 10.9) It is not that God needs to hear. It is not even that others need to hear. It is that you need to say. When you confess the truth with your mouth, you are changed by that truth.
Jesus’ brother, James, spoke about that. He said the tongue (what you say) is like the rudder of your life. Compared to the ship, the rudder is small, but it turns the whole ship. A bit in the mouth of a horse is small compared to the horse. But it can turn the whole horse. A match is small compared to a forest. But a well-placed match can set the whole forest on fire. Well placed words can set a whole church on fire. The words you use set the direction of your life.
I think if James were writing today, he wouldn’t talk about bits and rudders; he would talk about steering wheels. Your mouth is the steering wheel. You can steer your whole life with your words. Maybe he would talk about a computer. Your mouth is like the keyboard and mouse on your computer. You control the computer and tell it what to do through the mouse and keyboard. So, you control your life by controlling the words.
James had just warned that not many should be teachers. Perhaps he had teachers on his mind when he spoke of the idea that the tongue controls the life. Perhaps he was hinting to the teachers that if you can get people to say the truth, they will be changed by the truth they confess. We are changed more by what we say than what we hear.
A central issue in my theology is the idea that God is a rewarder. (Hebrews 11.6) We must come to Him for reward. We must believe He is a rewarder and we will be rewarded if we come to Him. It is always in our best interest to live the Christian life. It is always good for us to follow God. It is one thing to say these things to the people I lead. It is quite another to lead them through question and answer to say, “I want to follow God because it is good for me to follow God.” That is my goal in teaching—to lead people to speak that truth. [Excerpt from Teach Like Jesus.]