Non-Answer Answers

Life Notes—May 19, 2011

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, you will know my Father also.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.’”  John 14:5-7 

Jesus is talking to his disciples shortly before he is to be captured and crucified.  He tells them he is going to his Father’s house, where there are many dwelling places, and he will be preparing a place for them.  He tells them they know the way to this place.  Thomas says, “Wait a minute, Lord, we have no idea where you’re going or how to get there!”  Like the most skillful of politicians Jesus gives an articulate and memorable non-answer (see above), full of the sort of catchy sound-bites that fit well into the evening news. But did Jesus answer the question? 

I daresay the instructors I have learned most from seldom answered my questions directly.  Rather, they answered my questions with other questions, or made probing statements designed to make me explore the question more deeply.  They led me to work the answers out on my own.  Many of these instructors cared less about what answer I reached and more about the process of reaching an answer.  Did I like it?  No; sometimes I just wanted a straight answer.  But looking back, the answers I worked out in this way provided me with more than an answer to a question.  They taught me the life-long learning processes of research, reflection and introspection. Some of my best instructors were masters at the non-answer.  Jesus was the ultimate non-answer answerer. 

Why did Jesus seldom answer simple questions directly?  I suspect the reason was more than to just confound us.  I suspect Jesus, being aware of the material world as well as worlds beyond, knew that earth-based answers seldom contain the entire truth.  Because we are only aware of the material world, and because even that awareness is limited, Jesus gave answers that would be true at many levels of awareness.  When his answers don’t make sense it is because our understanding is limited by our awareness.  We must continually grow and expand our perception.  We must learn to see beyond the horizon our eyes perceive and hear beyond the audible range of our ears.  When Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” it is not an answer to a question, but an invitation to a journey.  A journey that begins on earth, but will carry us far beyond. 

Mitch will be preaching downtown this Sunday.  His sermon title is “Suspension of Disbelief,” based on John 14:1-14.  Reverend Dave Peterson will preach at the west campus.  His sermon title is “Believing Without Seeing,” based on the same scripture.  Life worship is at 9:40 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Contemporary worship at the west campus is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Come ponder the non-answers with us!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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