It’s that time of the year again. Usually, we pump ourselves up, decide to set goals or resolutions, and…end up failing, or not even beginning. Despite our defeats, good intentions are behind this resolution setting, with introspective, purposeful questions guiding the way.
Who am I? What do I desire? What do I want to change about myself? Who do I want to become?
Deep, meaningful questions are quintessential for our growth not only in life, in general, but also in our sanctification. A single question has the ability to stop you dead in your tracks, pierce your heart, or propel you towards uncharted territory. In order for the necessary steps to occur to enact effectual change, you must often begin with a question.
So, what if we decided to do something different this year? Instead of us setting the goals for ourselves—via our own questions—what if we sat with Jesus’ questions, looked at ourselves long and hard in the mirror, and allow his questions to shape and guide us into this next year?
Since there are so many questions that Jesus poses in the Gospels, it might be easier to look at one Gospel and focus on a few questions. Let’s turn to John’s Gospel.
“What do you seek?”
Those just so happen to be the first words that come out of Jesus’ mouth in the Gospel of John (1:38). After a glorious introduction sketching the creation of the cosmos, and how this Word spoke all things into existence, you might expect a declaration, something like: “Let there be light.”
But that’s not what we get. Instead, we see the Lord of Creation’s initial remarks aren’t declaratory, but inquisitive:
“What do you seek?”
Maybe this shouldn’t surprise us, but over and again the portrait of Jesus we find in the Gospels is that of one who asks questions. He asks 307 questions, whereas his inquisitors ask only 183. It’s telling, for all sorts of reasons, that the Lord of the universe employs questions. What sort of Lord is that?
Perhaps, upon further reflection, it shouldn’t come as a shock that here in the beginning of the gospel of John, Jesus—the Word who became flesh (incarnation), who decided to dwell among humans—is in the midst of a discussion with two people regarding location.
If you’ll recall, a long time ago a duo in a garden far, far away had just committed an egregious act and was hiding. The first words directed to them, the first conversation between God and humanity began also with a question:
“Where are you?”
Now fast-forward. Instead of running away from God, they are coming toward him. They are moving toward the God who makes his dwelling with humanity. These two former John-the-Baptizer disciples respond to Jesus’ question—what do you seek?—with another question:
“Where do you abide?”
Initially, I thought this was another example of oblivious disciples: “um…where do you live?” Palm over face, right? Wrong.
Their question is actually brilliant.
They are searching and seeking his dwelling place, his abode. We’ve already learned that this God made his dwelling in the flesh in Jesus; but what is it like, the place where he abides and others abide with him?
Surely, Jesus could have said, “Go up 100 steps to the north take a left around the bend towards the outskirts of Galilee. Enter the village and the second house on the right is mine.” He could have said something to that effect, he could have drawn a map in the sand, but he doesn’t. Instead, Jesus says:
“Come and you will see.”
Come and see where I abide. Come and see the place for which you are seeking. Come where I abide with you and you with me.
What do you seek?
In John’s Gospel, this isn’t the only time this question occurs. It is also directed to the soldiers at Jesus’ arrest (18:4,7) and to Mary at the empty tomb (20:15). Perhaps this is the question of John’s portrait of Jesus.
Sit with Jesus’ questions rather than your own as you enter a new year. What do you seek? What are you chasing? Who are you looking for? What do you desire?
Note from the Editor: The accompanying featured image is a work entitled, “The Constant Question,” by Spanish artist Chicote CFC.