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between-our-steps-01-03-18-doubleWhile people talk about the teachings that Jesus provided, what we see in the stories about him is how often he asked questions.

With his followers, Jesus almost always walked. They had time on the road to think, to chat, to listen. After one journey across Galilee, he asked them, "What were you talking about on the road?"

Consider what we think about on our travels. On a long car ride, what do we talk about? On a solitary walk or a ski through the forest, a ride along the road or snowmobiling across the fields, what topics do we think about?

Sometimes, the journey takes all our attention, such as driving in a snow storm. But often we have space to talk and think. We may drive the same road every day and see the way things shift with the changing seasons, the changing snow fall. We might talk about change and stability.

When we travel with people we know well, we may share old stories, memories we cherish. Locked in the car together, we may bring up a complicated topic that we have avoided but needs discussing. We may share juicy gossip or fall into an old argument.

The day Jesus asked the question, the disciples had been arguing about which of them was the most important. They compared gifts and skills and argued which one mattered most. Jesus was not impressed at this waste of good time or this focus of attention. He reminded them that serving others is the greatest task. On their next journey, he expected them to think about others not their own pride.

Another time, when the disciples were admiring the beautiful buildings of the city, Jesus again felt frustration at what they were missing. "Do you see these great structures?" he asked. Of course, they saw them with their eyes; they had pointed them out to him. But he asks if they really see them.

Jesus had been working to show the abuse of power in the Roman empire. He had been laying bear the power structures that marginalized vulnerable people. He had been showing the way that people co-operated with the empire to the detriment of the community. This day, he is frustrated that they have been deceived by the exterior beauty and are missing the way power is used. He wants them to see more than the exterior of what they look at.

We too are challenged to ask ourselves what we are looking at. Are we lulled by nice words, or do we examine the consequences of what is proposed? Do we admire flashy portrayals, or do we notice how the vulnerable fare? We don't live under an empire's power, but we live in a system that rewards ambition, that allows economic power to override compassion. When we look at the institutions in our society, what do we see in them?

The stories say that when addressing someone who needed healing, Jesus often asked a question that surprises the reader. With a man who was unable to walk, he asked, "Do you want to be healed?" Surely the obvious answer is "yes!"

But the man sat near a pool that was supposed to heal people when the water moved. He had given up hope, however, because no one is there to help him into the water. Jesus' question brings his despair to light. The man has to acknowledge that he does not expect that healing is possible. When Jesus challenges him to get up and walk, he heals the man in body and spirit, drawing him out of despair.

With two blind men who begged for his help, he asked, "What do you want?" He pressed the men to notice the changes that wholeness would bring. The question "What do you want?" slows us down to examine expectations, to notice what we hope for, to attend to our willingness to change.

Sometimes Jesus' questions were a direct challenge: "Were you not strong enough to stay awake?" Sometimes they were a rebuke: "Do you not remember?" Sometimes they drew into view someone who expected to be hidden: "Who touched me?" Always, the question challenged his followers to open their eyes, to examine themselves, to re-evaluate their path.

Teachings matters. But the questions we ponder will often open up deep insights.

Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.

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