It’s Harvest season and we have talked this month in our services about fruitfulness and growth as the themes of Harvest which have a message for human life and Christian discipleship.
This matter of discipleship is an interesting one which has lost some of its impact in our culture .. we don’t really have a deep understanding of discipleship any more .. what might it mean for you to be a disciple of Jesus, the man from Nazareth I wonder?
This morning I wanted to think about what a fruitful relationship with Jesus might look like. What might good discipleship look like for us in our villages? And I think it begins with the way in which we ask our questions.
I take this idea because it is central to our reading in Matthew Chapter 22 which tells us the well known story of the Pharisees asking Jesus about taxes. It’s a fantastic story and not because of what it tells us about money but what it tells us about humans and there questions. It shows us how we can ask fruitful questions of God.
So the Pharisees come to Jesus with a very particular question. Itr is one which to be honest I think they knew there was no comfortable answer to. They wanted to trap him and so asked a question with no good answer. I wonder whether we sometimes do that in our relationship with our Creator .. ask a question through which we hope to apportion blame and express anger.
Jesus knew that their question was not a fruitful one. Not a question able to reap a Harvest in the lives of the questioner. So he asks them a question in return. It is not a trick question .. but it is a fruitful question .. what is the difference between the 2 questions of the Pharisees and of Jesus?
The Pharisees asked a question in pursuit of an answer. An answer which would bring with it a sense of finality. And they hoped a finality to the end of Jesus ministry. Jesus asked a question with an invitation for further relationship and reflection. Can you see this?
Questions are more fruitful than answers. Answers are offered as a conclusion and resolution of something. Questions are an invitation to further reflection. For the most part, answers close and questions open. Jesus is not a giver of advice. He doesn’t give us a neat list of ten ways we can be closer to God. He doesn’t offer spiritual tips. He does not provide easy answers. Instead
he asks hard questions.
“Why do you call me good?”
““Why are you looking for me?”
“What are you thinking in your hearts?”
“Why are you anxious about clothes?”
“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?”
“Why are you testing me?”
“Do you not yet have faith?”
“If I am telling the truth, why do you not believe me?”
“Will you lay down your life for me?”
“Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?”
““Why are you trying to kill me?”
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Yes answers give us more of a feeling of success and closure… but the truth is easy answers allow us to try to change others instead of hard questions allowing God to change us.” And discipleship is about us being changed.
If our lives are to be fruitful in the manner of the Harvest theme we celebrate this season we must consider what it means that we are disciples of a saviour who asks so many questions? What does it do to our understanding of God if we see Jesus, not as the answer man, but more as the question man?
Jesus asks questions about longing, compassion, identity, faith, doubt, worry, the reach of love, and healing.
If we are looking for an Answer Man in Jesus we will be disappointed. But we will be rewarded if we can take the famous advice offered by the 19th Century Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke who said:
“Be patient with regard to all that in your heart is still unresolved and try to love the questions themselves… Live the questions now. Perhaps you will live thereafter and gradually without realizing it, one day, live your way into the answer.”