“About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying, ‘How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?’ Then Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine but his who sent me.’” ~John 7:14-16
Life and the game show Jeopardy has taught me one over-arching truth: There will always be more questions than answers. I simply don’t know very much.
I have a husband and a son who seem to file away useless trivia like squirrels storing nuts for winter. But me, facts and numbers and all those little detail-ish things are not my friends. We seem to part company as quickly as we can.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed by how many questions I have about life, and Jesus in particular. A lifetime of learning him has left with more questions than answers.
For first-century Jews, centuries-old feasts and festivals were the metronome, keeping rhythm for their way of life. They were familiar practices intended to remind them of their identity and hope. In the Gospels, Jesus likes to show up and stir things up during these celebrations.
I feast and festival on doubts, punctuated with question marks. I question and challenge. I live in booths made of cynicism and uncertainty. Will Jesus show up here?
I don’t know why bad things happen to faithful people. I mean I know the answer, but it’s empty and unfulfilling when I’m looking into the eyes of the faithful person trying to make sense of why life just turned on them.
I don’t know where God is and why he doesn’t do more when these said bad things happen. I mean I know the answer, but it scares me. God’s silence shivers me.
I could go on and on with my “I don’t knows” and I often do. On and on, deeper into my prison of unbelief.
I don’t even like writing about this. I don’t want you to know how many days I have scratched tally marks on the cold, bare walls of this cell. My dad was a pastor; don’t you know that means I’m supposed to know all the answers? The little child in me fears that these doubts and questions will get me into trouble with the church police.
The more I read in John’s Gospel the more I sense that Jesus isn’t threatened by my questions. Instead of hearing, “Hush!” I hear, “I, the Word, the One with all the answers, have become flesh. I understand your weakness. I get your inability to get out of your own shadow of human thinking. I will live among you. I will listen to your questions, each and every one of them. Repeat them as many times as you like. I am meek and gentle. I am a patient Teacher. I free you from the need to have all the answers. I am and will always be your answer. I invite you to come and learn. Come learn my grace and truth. Come behold my glory.”
Yes, Jesus still likes to show up at feasts and festivals. Even, maybe especially, at the doubting kind. He is still stirring things up. Redefining identity. Hanging up hope, making sure the frame is straight. He teaches us how to feast and festival rightly—not with pretend answers borrowed from a book, but instead with honest answers drawn from a pure heart. He teaches well and we—you and me—are free to learn.
This month I’m participating with The Nester in her 31 Day challenge to write every day on a topic of choice. I’m writing this month on how Jesus make us free. Because without him, we’re just a hot mess of a captive.