"But they did not understand the saying and they were afraid to question him."
Questions are good, not bad. But most of us, like the apostles, are afraid to ask. It’s actually rather understandable in their case. For the second time in as many Sundays, Jesus is predicting his passion, death and resurrection. Fair enough that they don’t get it, and maybe don’t want to. We also know that in keeping with the Messianic Secret discussed last week, Mark paints the apostles as particularly clueless. Nonetheless, their decision to remain silent or, worse yet, to bicker, rather than to approach Jesus, is particularly worthy of our attention for what it shows us about ourselves.
Afraid to ask, that’s what it says. Is Jesus particularly scary or unapproachable? Hardly. Yet they were afraid to ask. In that we have much in common. Often we fear appearing as though we are stupid or do not know. We seem to forget that a person isn’t smart because they know a lot. A person is smart because they are eager to know more. And questions, of course, are how we come to know.
Another reason that we do not ask is that we are afraid to appear doubtful, especially when it comes to matters of faith. There seems to be a presumption in place that to doubt means to not believe. In actuality, faith grows in the soil of doubt. The theologian Paul Tillich writes, "Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.”
When I was seven I began a list and carefully penciled across a paper, "Things to Ask God when I get to Heaven.” It began as I recall, with the query, "Why couldn’t we just have teeth the first time that lasted all our lives?” Obviously, my loose teeth stage had induced if not trauma, at least doubt. And that was good! While that question sort of answered itself, it was replaced by many more, some of which have yet to be answered but all of which are a kind of stepping stone along the faith walk.
What might have happened if the apostles had taken their question to Jesus? How eager Jesus would have been to answer them, to help them understand. If we, too, have questions, would He not be as eager to receive them? If we question the why of suffering or the incredibility of resurrection, if we question the inequity we see around us or experience ourselves, if we cannot see the good or reason in our current situation….write it down, make a list, put it in words, bring it to Jesus but let’s not wander off afraid only to bicker among ourselves. Jesus loves our questions.