Questions Asked of Jesus
18th May 2008
Last week, I asked you to come up with a question that you might ask God or Jesus if you had the chance. Some of them were not in the context in which it could have been answered in the gospels. Here I have the Top 5 Humorous Questions:
5. What are the winning lottery numbers? (Actually, they did ask Him – will you at this time restore the fortunes of Israel?!)
4. Paper or Plastic?
3. The Platypus (What’s the deal)? (This one is answered in Job 39)
2. Boxers or Briefs?
1. Will a Cleveland team ever win a championship? And we all know the answer to that – no.
There was – and I think I expected this – 50% of the questions were about the same.
Basically, the question was asked many different ways, but it comes down to this – why is there evil and suffering in the world?
Many of them were specific tragedies – but the general concept the Bible addresses.
Two perspectives as we try to answer this –
Theologically – why is there evil in the world?
Second is the emotional or personal perspective. This question was asked Jesus several times.
Lord, we ask You, as we look at your word and answer the difficult questions – this one is on the world’s mind. If a survey were done – what question would you ask God? I think 75% would ask this question. Help us to make sense of this in our own lives – that a deeper knowledge of You and understanding the personal aspects of this for each of us. Give us wisdom and a gracious spirit – questions like this do not have an easy answer.
Why the suffering?
John 9:1 And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?"
Why the tragedy?
Just Friday, I was watching the news – and a woman’s daughter was killed at a prom – and as she called her son to tell him about it, he was in a car accident and died. Why or how do things like this happen?
The Jews had “The Retribution Principle” – this was ingrained in them – you see this worldview in the Old Testament, we have been given the book of Job – 42 chapters of this.
The righteous prosper – the wicked don’t. They see this blind man – and who sinned – him or his parents?
In our day, we would do whatever we can to prevent someone from suffering. I think that is true today. But the fulfillment of this is this – If God is all-loving – why wouldn’t He want to prevent suffering for those He loves?
I am starting from the theological/intellectual perspective – this will not be very satisfying for your personal itch – to answer those personal, individual, and emotional ways of dealing with this.
Let’s build on this from Luke 13 –
Luke 13:1 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
We have another tragedy – Pilate is killing people and mixing their blood with the sacrifices.
2 And He answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were [greater] sinners than all [other] Galileans, because they suffered this [fate?] 3 "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were [worse] culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
The first thing we see – there is suffering in the world because there is evil/sin in the world. That is the primary reason there is suffering – because of sin. Had there never been sin – there would not be suffering.
I think of 3 things that cause suffering –
1) Our own sin – that is a reality we have to deal with.
2) We don’t talk about this much – but I think because of evil that is embodied in Satan – and he wants us to suffer.
3) Evil people – the Hitlers/serial killers/people who go into classrooms and shoot up a lot of people.
Our tendency is to ask – How can God allow this to happen? CS Lewis referred to this as the awful allowances of God. Things that we would never allow if we were in charge.
How do you explain this? Part of it is Freedom of choice. We were created with the freedom to do right or wrong.
It is just the way He chose to create the world. God, in order to demonstrate His love – we had to be free.
If we weren’t created with the freedom to choose – there would be no relationship.
Giving us choice allowed God to have relationship with us.
We were created in God’s image – the ability to choose right or wrong. We chose wrong – and that is what brought evil into the world.
Freedom to choose – there has to be total freedom or there is no freedom at all.
Why didn’t he just create us to choose good? That is no choice.
But it brings us down to this – for God to eliminate evil – what would He have to do? He would have to eliminate all evil. We want degrees of evil eliminated – the Hitlers and drunk drivers – but when it comes down to us – we don’t want to be eliminated!
We are all evil – and if we want God to eliminate evil – we need to recalibrate our thinking.
11:1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 And it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." 4 But when Jesus heard it, He said, "This sickness is not unto death.”
There is general natural suffering as a result of The Fall. As long as we live in this world, there will be suffering – it sometimes has nothing to do with our sin – nor anyone else’s sin – nor does it directly result from the devil. It is suffering as a result of the original sin. There is no finger pointing.
Look at the earthquake in China – there was no – it was not because they were Communists that it happened. Philip Yancy – where is God when it hurts – there was a natural disaster and someone told him – did you hear that there was a fewer percentage of Christians who died than the Non-Christians? “You have got to be kidding me”
There are criticisms of Reverend Wright – but I have even heard Billy Graham say this – If God doesn’t judge America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.
BUT we can’t say that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans because it is a wicked city – we don’t have that liberty. That is what Jesus was saying in Luke
What this verse does – as we move forward – He gives a hint –
"This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it."
A higher purpose –
9:1 And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "[It was] neither [that] this man sinned, nor his parents; but [it was] in order that the works of God might be displayed in him
Look – first to answer the question and the Retribution Principle – this suffering had nothing to do with sin. But this suffering – was for a greater purpose.
Sometimes in life, there is a person who goes through a significant aspect of suffering – and that is the key element to fulfilling that person’s purpose in life.
You’ve heard the story of Joni Eareckson (Tada) – God takes her suffering – and that becomes the primary element for God’s plan for her life. Let me say – most people don’t end up famous due to their suffering. At times that is the case – and there are special circumstances where God puts someone through tremendous suffering to use them in a special way.
At times God allows suffering in order that He might be able to accomplish a miracle. It is not ordinary – it is extraordinary – does not happen most of the time. God does heal people, but the norm is for a disease to run its course. That is God’s way of dealing with man’s sin. “If you eat of it you shall die”
“Will we really die?” We want to go back to that all the time, don’t we?!
It will always be there – God sometimes does miracles – but most of the time, God has purposed for the natural course to run out. Occasionally, He comes in and reverses that – for reasons only He knows.
Sometimes there is this message that God wants to speak through suffering – occasionally – God wants to do a miracle and reverse the suffering. But primarily – suffering is for our growth.
Rom. 8: 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
God uses trouble, difficulty, suffering in our lives to make us more like Him. We were created to be like Him – but we have stained and torn the canvas. God wants to make us anew in His image. That is probably the primary aspect God uses in difficulty. He uses the difficulties we come into in life to help us accomplish this.
We need to ask ourselves a couple of questions – I’ve only given a couple of thoughts that may seem almost trite.
Where is God when it hurts?
Night – Elie Wiesel – Someone had escaped at Auschwitz, so they took a whole mess of people and hanged them. There was a young boy who was hanged – and he suffered a long time and they had to watch – and while this young man suffered – someone yelled out, “Where is God?” And someone said – God is on the gallows. To them, the where is God is – God is dead. But we know – where is God? He is on the cross, He suffered in every way for us – He is found in our suffering. Christ is in our suffering – and He is suffering with us. Because of all the effects of sin. And that sin was placed on Christ on the cross.
The reality – when we are suffering, Christ is on the cross and suffering – but the reality is that you don’t feel the truth of that situation. Until we get to heaven, we won’t understand it.
CS Lewis – when his wife died, wrote in A Grief Observed– Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him then with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away.
That is the reality to us – but when Christ was on the cross - what did He say? My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
The reality is – at some point in your life – not in this world, but in the next – at that point – and the hard thing – at only that point – will we clearly understand. So suffering forces us to live as God would have us live – to live for that world. You were created to live in a perfect world, so you will never be completely at home here. God is pushing us toward the next world. “My kingdom is not of this world.” And the only way to the next world- through Christ’s suffering on the cross that we will leave this world of suffering. God will wipe away the tears - evil will be gone – suffering will be eliminated.
That is the world we must live for.