This illuminating examination of the Gospels reveals how the questions Jesus asks of his followers lead the way to a deeper understanding of the meaning of life and the mystery of God.
The Gospels are filled with stories, parables, miracles, commandments, and dramatic incidents that trace Jesus' life and recount his teachings. A close reading of the Gospels reveals, however, that they are also filled with questions. As John Dear points out in this remarkable book, Jesus, like any great teacher and rabbi, "has a question for everyone he meets, for every occasion, for every experience, for every potential disciple." Dear uses these questions as a starting point, an invitation to readers to discover the lessons they contain by searching their own hearts and minds for answers.
Throughout The Questions of Jesus, Dear interweaves insights from ethical and religious teachers ranging from Buddha to Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. Using recent events as powerful and poignant examples, he shows why a renewed commitment to Jesus' message of nonviolence, compassion, justice, and peace is essential to healing a world torn by violence and war.
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November 15, 2004
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Excerpt from The Questions of Jesus by John Dear
What are you looking for?"
The first question Jesus asks does not address our sins, failures, or infidelity. It is not accusatory or hostile. Rather, it is a question rooted in compassion and love, calling upon our deepest desir?es, the best within us. It is a question full of hope.
"What are you looking for?"
John's Gospel begins when John the Baptist tells two of his disciples that Jesus is the Messiah. "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," he says, pointing to Jesus. The two disciples immediately begin following Jesus. When he notices these two followers, Jesus turns around, looks them in the eye and asks, "What are you looking for?" He does not reject them. From the start, he is interested in them. He draws them out. He gets them to articulate their hopes and dreams. He is willing to listen to them. He shows them loving kindness.
Those first disciples are caught off guard by Jesus' disarming question. So they ask him a question. "Where are you staying?" Always inviting, Jesus welcomes them into his life. "Come and see," he says to them.
What is it we are looking for in our lives? A good place to begin our daily meditation is to sit in silent peace with the holy desires within us, and to imagine Jesus looking at us with loving kindness and asking, "What are you looking for?"
What would we say to Jesus? As we look at him, as we feel his sincerity and love, and as we notice his lack of judgment or anger, we can let those deep desires surface and be spoken. Seeing the love in his eyes, we know that he will not laugh at or reject us. We know that the best within us comes from God, that God has given us everything that is holy within us, and that he will affirm whatever holy desires we seek.
What is it we want? What do we truly desire? Life is short and precious. What are we most looking for in the remaining years we have left? If we can sit with his question for days and weeks, we will discover, perhaps to our astonishment, that we are not looking for money, power, fame, or control. We are really looking for love, goodness, truth, peace, happiness, justice, mercy, and joy. We are looking for meaning. We are looking for God. We are looking for Jesus.
St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, knew, even in the sixteenth century, the importance of holy desires. He taught that every time we pray we should ask God to give us "what it is we are looking for." The Buddhist monks of Tibet also recognize the spiritual wisdom of knowing what it is we seek. For thousands of years, their dharma was based in the understanding that the spiritual life begins by naming what we truly want.
Our deepest desires hold great power. If we can name them, unleash their goodness, and channel those desires toward God, then our lives will be transformed. We will begin a journey toward God, into the mystery and peace of God, and become servants and friends of God.
If we listen to Jesus' question, name the pure, selfless, loving desires that lie buried in our hearts, and tell Jesus what we are looking for, he will listen and beckon us into a whole new life where those holy desires will be realized. If we dare say that we are looking for him, that we want to be with him, that we want to follow him, we can trust that he will invite us to join him on his journey and lead us to where he lives.
Why are you looking for me?
According to Luke's Gospel, when Jesus is twelve years old, he goes with his parents on the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Afterward, he stays behind without his parents knowing it. When they realize he is not in their caravan, they return to Jerusalem in a panic, searching everywhere for their boy.
After three days, they find Jesus in the Temple, where he sits "in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." Already at his young age, Jesus behaves like a rabbi, listening and asking questions. "All who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers," Luke reports.
"Son, why have you done this to us?" his mother asks. "Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." The poor parents are worried, stressed out, and angry. They probably feared that something terrible had happened to Jesus, perhaps that he had been kidnapped or killed. But they do not respond with corporal punishment, verbal abuse, or humiliation. Rather, Jesus' mother asks a simple yet serious question.
But Jesus has just spent three days arguing the fine points of the Scriptures with the highest religious leaders in the holiest place on earth. Although he is just twelve, he has already become a spellbinding teacher, an extraordinary rabbi who listens, asks questions, and gives remarkable answers. So Jesus in return asks his parents a pointed question: "Why are you looking for me?"
Luke records that his parents do not understand what Jesus is saying, but that he returns home with them.