I was THAT kid in school. The one who asked, “is there a maximum number of pages for this paper?” The one who pleaded for more, not fewer, graded assignments. And the one who begged the teacher for essay questions rather than multiple choice. My concern was not a zeal for learning, but an obsession with my grades – and more specifically my grade point average. At any given moment, I could assess the effect of any graded assignment to my overall GPA.
I did not trust multiple choice questions. I second guessed and micro analyzed every question. Not my answers, I felt confident of those. What I feared was subtly in the questions themselves. Surely a trap or a trick had been embedded into what appeared a simple query? For indeed, this is what makes good multiple choice and true/false questions tick. What if my teacher was not clever enough to get this right? An essay allowed me to correct poorly crafted questions and clarify exactly what question I had answered.
Tucked away in my anxiety closet was a large store of Atychiphobia – a fear of failure that takes on an extreme form. What if I gave the right answer to the wrong question? I would fail. My GPA would drop. My future would hang in the balance. All hopes of future happiness and success would vanish. Or so I thought. Failing to spot a flawed question seemed to me catastrophic. And answering the wrong question, even with the right answer, an irrecoverable misstep.
Of course, no such plot existed. The multiple choice and true/false questions had not been laced with poison logic or satanic subtlety. All was as it appeared. But the consequences of answering the wrong question manufactured for me considerable adolescent angst. Most of us don’t rise to this level of concern about right and wrong questions. We are simply concerned with right and wrong answers. But what if I had been right to be afraid? What if an irrecoverable misstep or eternal catastrophe did result from answering the wrong question, but never answering the right one?
The story of the wise men in Matthew 2 poses this conundrum vividly.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,MATTHEW 2:1-6
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
On the surface, the wise men and Herod seem to be asking the same question. But closer examination reveals a great, but subtle, difference. The wise men ask, “where is he, that we may worship him?” Herod asks, “where is he, that I may manage him and preserve my own autonomy?” All men ask these same two questions. Believers seek him to worship him. Skeptics seek him to manage, discredit, and remove him from his place in their lives.
What about you? What is your question when it comes to Jesus? Is it to find him and worship him? Or to manage, discredit, and remove him from your life? Or do you have no concern for him at all? Questions about Jesus are inextricably tied to our own existential questions, whether we admit it or not. When it comes to this test, to answer the wrong question is fatal. The gospel enables us actually know Jesus, not merely know about him. Are you asking the right questions? Join us as we examine Matthew 2 and Micah 5:1-6 this week and consider the difference between asking right and wrong questions.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.