During Advent and Christmas we often read from the beautiful prologue of the Gospel of John which says, “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we have beheld his glory, the glory of an only begotten Son of the heavenly Father.” I love that poetic expression of the coming of Christ to the world, and I have often thought of the Word as a declarative word, a proclamation, a statement of the truth. Indeed that is accurate, and Jesus himself declares he is “the way, the truth, and the life” and many of the teachings of Jesus are declarative in nature.
However, in recent weeks I have also been drawn to the truth that many times in the Gospels, the Word of God (Jesus) also asks questions. In fact Jesus is less of an “answer man” and more of an inquiring leader – whose questions invite us to grow, to reflect, to learn, and to step out in faith.
Think of some of the questions that Jesus asks: What are you looking for? Why are you afraid? Do you want to be healed? What do you want from me? How will we feed so many people? Why have you come to betray me? Can you not stay awake with me? Who do people say that I am?
So many questions, so many times Jesus confronts, challenges, stretches, and invites us to have more faith. The Word which became flesh in the life and ministry of Jesus is often an inquiring Word – not an easy answering Word.
The most important inquiry of the Word is the question of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answers that question by declaring, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And that moment – not the birth of Jesus – is the birth of Christianity. Our Christian faith did not begin with the birth of Jesus, and in fact Jesus never asks us to remember his birth (although I am sure he is pleased with some – not all – of the celebrations of his birth as we worship the Lord at Christmas). It is not his birth which marks the beginning of the Jesus movement, it is when the first person (Simon Peter) declared “You are the Christ.” In fact, we are invited to answer in a personal way, “You are the Christ for me.”
So my hope is that somewhere in our Advent and Christmas celebrations we will take time to hear the Inquiring Word which asks us the important faith questions, especially “Who do you say I am?”
I commend to your reading a wonderful new book by Bishop Reuben Job entitled “Three Simple Questions.” His previous book, “Three Simple Rules,” provided a wonderful modern approach to the General Rules of John Wesley: do no harm, do good, stay in love with God.
His new book invites us to consider three simple questions: Who am I? Who is God? Who are we together?”
Reading, reflecting, and answering such questions is in the spirit of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, who asks us these same kinds of questions to help grow our faith.
As we read John’s Prologue, remember to hear it this way: “The Word became flesh, and asked us questions.”