Growing up, there’s one thing I will always remember about my mom. She was the queen of rhetorical questions.
For example, she would say, “Do you want some squash?” and before you could react, there was a spoon of squash headed towards your plate.
“Would you like to do your homework on the kitchen table?”
“Should we put our shoes in the closet?”
“Do you need to talk in that particular tone of voice?”
“Maybe we should turn the TV off?”
There was nothing sarcastic about the way she said it. Just the ever polite and pleasant, “Do you think we should be leaving now?”
I quickly found out this was not a question.
“Would you like a poinsettia?” she asked me a few weeks ago, placing a giant poinsettia in my arms. I kill everything I try to water and sentencing it to life in my apartment seemed cruel, but it seemed futile to argue.
I like to feel like this a holy characteristic of my mother, as the gospel itself is full of rhetorical questions.
“Can a blind man lead a blind man?”
“Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven, or get up and walk’?”
“Can you make guests of the bridegroom fast while he is still with him?”
“I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good, or to do evil, to save life or destroy it?”
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?”
You could say Jesus was the king of rhetorical questions, as the gospels are packed with them.
But there were some questions that demanded answers.
“Who do you say I am?”
“How many loaves do you have?”
“Do you believe I am able to do this?”
“Who is my mother and who is my brother?”
“Who was this man’s neighbor?”
The beauty of the gospels is knowing which questions are rhetorical and which ones are real.
This left Jesus’s own disciples stumped at times. (“Is it because we didn’t bring any bread?”) And yet these questions are addressed to us today.
To understand the personality of Jesus better, try reading the through the gospels reading only the questions. Seriously, try it.
From “Dear woman, why do you concern me?” right down to “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“Who are you looking for? Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
When I was younger, I used to try to answer my mother’s rhetorical questions. Now, I just let them hang there in the atmosphere, knowing they don’t necessarily need a response.
Except when they do.
Knowing which ones do and which ones don’t shows how well I know my mother.
And to an extent, how well I know my Father.