Luke records Jesus' trip to Jerusalem at age twelve for the Passover.
At the conclusion of the feast, Jesus' parents began the trip home
and thought that He was among their family and friends. After His
parents could not find Jesus in their company of travelers, they
returned to Jerusalem and eagerly sought Him. Finding Jesus in the
temple sitting in the midst of the teachers both listening to them
and asking them questions, Jesus responds to his parent's question
saying: "Why is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that
I must be about My Father's business" (Lk. 2:49)?
It is interesting to note that Jesus' first recorded words are
in the form of two questions. Since Jesus is the master communicator,
it is worth our time to study communication techniques from His
words recorded in the Bible. Immediately, we notice that Jesus constantly
employs questions while communicating.
Why are questions a valuable communication technique?
First, asking questions help us avoid false assumptions. You have
probably been in a situation where someone has falsely assumed your
thoughts or actions. False assumptions are nearly always bad, even
if a good thing is assumed, therefore adding unnecessary stress
to a relationship.
Secondly, asking questions help us to understand a person's thoughts,
position, or condition. In Acts 19:2f Paul asked some disciples:
"Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" Paul
did not assume whether they had, or had not, received the Holy Spirit.
But, by asking a question he was able to determine their spiritual
condition and hence teach them the things which were lacking in
their lives. We, too, must ask questions to properly ascertain someone's
spiritual beliefs and condition before we can begin to minister
Third, we see that questions are helpful when making a defence
of the hope that lies in us. In Matt. 9:1-6 Jesus answers the scribes
who were accusing Him of blasphemy in their thoughts. Jesus could
have spoken to them in the form of statements while imparting the
same information, but he employs two questions and one statement
saying: "'Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is
easier, to say, "Your sins are forgiven you," or to say,
"Arise and walk"? But that you may know that the Son of
Man has power on earth to forgive sins' - then He said to the paralytic,
'Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house'" (Matt. 9:4-6).
Did Jesus ask two questions, in responding to the scribes' thoughts,
because He did not know the answer? Jesus had perfect cognition
revealed by the fact that he knew their thoughts. Here we learn
that questions are not used only to acquire information but to also
engage a person in considering our defence.
Fourth, questions are valuable in answering questions. In Matt.
9:14-17 Jesus is questioned by John's disciples concerning fasting.
Here again we see that Jesus could have imparted the information
in a statement but chose to begin with a question saying: "Can
the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is
with them" (Matt. 9:15)? Answering a question with a question
is valuable by engaging the questioner in the response causing him
to logically think through the response.
Lastly, good teachers employ questions in their teachings. Jesus
employs rhetorical questions in the sermon on the mount in Matt.
5:13; 5:46; 5:47; 6:25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31; 7:3,4, 9, 10, 11, 16,
22. We learn here that rhetorical questions are asked during a speech
in order to keep the audience engaged in the lesson causing them
to make application of the things being taught.
Asking questions is one of the most effective communication techniques
available to us. In fact, I am convinced that asking questions is
the first rule of effective interpersonal communication.
When are questions effective in communication? When in doubt, ask
a question. To understand someone, ask a question. When defending
your position, ask a question. When answering a question, ask a
question. When teaching, ask a question.