Encountering Jesus, Encountering Questions

During Lent we as a church are “Encountering Jesus.” In our Sunday services we are exploring the ways different people in the Gospels encountered Jesus the Messiah on his way to the cross: Peter rebuked by Jesus, Mary devoted to Jesus, Bartimaeus healed by Jesus, and others. I’ve also issued the Lent Gospels Reading Challenge, encouraging us to read through all four Gospels through Lent. The goal in all this is to know Jesus better, to encounter Jesus ourselves in fresh ways.

Tissot - Jesus TeachingThe thing is, encountering Jesus always means encountering questions. When we take the Gospels seriously, when we take Jesus seriously, we are confronted by questions, questions, and more questions. Thus it was for the first followers of Jesus, and so has it always been.

Here are a few questions I have:

What does Jesus mean, “Love your enemies”? Really? Those people who want to kill us?

Why are there four very different accounts of a woman anointing Jesus with perfume?

What does it look like today for me to “take up my cross and follow Jesus”?

What’s up with all those demons in the Gospels? Are they actual demons? Mental illnesses? Metaphors?

Did Jesus truly rise from the dead? Physically, bodily resurrected, never to die again?

Maybe you have these same questions. If you’re like me, you have these and about a zillion others.

And underlying all our questions there is the ever-present question of the Gospels: Who is this Jesus? Who is he, this Messiah, this son of David, this son of man, this son of God? Who is he, who teaches with such authority, whom even the wind and the waves obey? Who is this Jesus?

Sometimes Christians shy away from asking questions. In some circles it can seem disrespectful, even dangerous, even sacrilegious, to ask questions.

That’s a pity, because it is only through asking questions, naming our doubts, confronting our fears—just like the first disciples, just like Christians throughout history—that we can actually learn and grow. That’s how we all learned and grew as children, and it’s how we continue to learn and grow as adults.

If you stop asking questions, it means you’re dead—either literally, physically dead, or spiritually dead, stagnant in your faith, stuck in a faith not your own, or in a faith two sizes too small.

At Morden Mennonite Church we don’t want to shy away from honest questions about faith and life. Our statement of values includes this one:

We value truth. We provide a safe space for people to express their doubts and fears, to ask honest and difficult questions about life and faith. We seek truth with humility, in conversation with one another and listening to many voices.

That’s not to say we do this perfectly—not at all. We’re human, after all. We come across some questions that scare us half to death. We’re not always humble in our truth-seeking, we don’t always listen well to others. But this is what we strive for.

Jesus SemAnd that’s why I’m leading a seminar on March 21 that explores just these kinds of questions about Jesus and the Gospels. Provocative questions like, “Was Jesus married?” Curious questions like, “What do we do with all those other Gospels?” Timely questions like, “Was Jesus a pacifist?” Vital questions like, “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” You can find more information about the seminar here. If you’re in the area next Saturday, I invite you to join us.

After all, we who believe the truth will set us free, that Jesus ultimately is the Truth, that God loves us in Jesus with a perfect love, that perfect love casts out fear—we have nothing to fear from the truth.

And certainly nothing to fear from honest questions.

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