By Michael Kelley
There are, if you want to be super simplistic about it, maybe only two types of questions that we ask each other.
The first type of question is based on the need for information. It is asked in order for the asker to know something that he or she doesn’t already know. This is the kind of question I ask most every day about my keys, or my shoes, or my wallet, or my whatever — “Jana, where is my whatever?” I ask because I don’t know, and I assume the person I’m asking possesses the knowledge that I need and might be willing to share it with me.
But there is another type of question — this one is not based in information, but based more in revelation. You ask this type of question to another when you know the answer, and maybe even the person you’re asking knows the answer, but through asking it reveals something else that the person you are asking it to might now know. And God asks these kinds of questions all the time.
Take, for instance, the garden. The fall has happened. Man has rebelled. Everything in creation has been turned upside down. And the Lord asks a question of Adam and Eve:
This is not a question-based in information; God the Creator knows very well that his humans are hiding behind some trees over there. He’s not asking it because He doesn’t know; He’s asking it because He wants to reveal something to Adam and Eve, and to us. The revelation is both about themselves (and ourselves) and about Him. Through these three words, God brings us to a point of revealing that we are, as sinners, hiding from His presence. And that He, because of His great love, is seeking us out to be in right relationship with Him.
As parents, we do the same thing even if we don’t know it. We come in the house and we see that the lamp is broken. We know that a child has done this, and most of the time we know which child. But we ask anyway, “Who broke the lamp?” It’s not because we need information; it’s because we desire revelation. We want the child to own up to what they’ve done, and in so doing, to take responsibility for that action and ultimately for us to reveal both the discipline and the grace we have for them.
Revelation. Not information.
When we come to Jesus, then, we find Him asking all kinds of questions. And I would posit that when Jesus asks a question, it’s not a search for information; it’s to the end of revelation. But there is one particular moment in the gospels when He asks a very surprising question:
Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? If you read the context, you will find that the man on the receiving end of this question had been sick for 38 years. For almost four decades, he had been lying by this pool, putting his hope in some old superstition about its magical qualities when it started to bubble.
Of course, he wants to be healed. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? But let’s go back to the reasons behind the questions. If we categorize those questions into questions involving either information or revelation, and if we further assume that Jesus knows the information, then He must be after some kind of revelation in this answer. So what, then, does Jesus want to reveal by asking this question?
In the Book of John, we know that Jesus is constantly about revelation. That’s the reason why all these miracles He performs as recorded in this book are referred to as “signs;” it’s because they are all meant to reveal the divinity of Jesus. But the revelation also has an introspective component for this man. With the question, Jesus is forcing him to look inside himself, as if to say, “I know that you might respond with an immediate yes, but think about it. Do you really want to be healed?”
Is this the kind of question Jesus might still ask of us today? I think so.
It’s not that we don’t need to be healed; we do. We need to be healed from the ongoing sin in our lives. We need to be healed from the wounds of our painful circumstances. We need to be healed from our misshapen views of God that have come about through decades of bad examples and wrong beliefs. But Jesus doesn’t ask us about our need. He asks us, along with this man, something concerning our desire. We, like the man, are lying in a state of ongoing sickness, and Jesus asks us the same question: “Do you really want to be made well?”
And in that moment, we like the man are forced to look inside ourselves.
You can get accustomed to a lot of things in 38 years. In fact, you can become so accustomed to something that you develop an attachment to it. Even though your circumstances are painful, at least they are something you know. Something you’re comfortable with. Could things be better? Sure they could. But at least with the way things are, you know what to expect every day.
Healing is good, but healing is also uncomfortable. It means letting go of what is familiar and comfortable. It means releasing ourselves totally to His care. It means trusting that He is better than whatever lifestyle we are currently clinging to. But to answer that question in the positive requires some measure of risk on our part. And if we are willing to answer affirmatively; if we see inside ourselves and recognize that being healed means a departure from what we once were and moving forward into the unknown with Jesus, then He is willing. Though the process might be longer than it was with this particular man, the healing will come.
When Jesus comes to you with this question, don’t be too quick to answer. Recognize that He’s not after information, but revelation, and look inside yourself. And when you do, what will you say?
About the Author: Michael Kelley is the Director of Groups Ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, TN. He and his wife Jana have three children. You can follow him on Twitter.