As a toddler teacher, I am no stranger to The Why Stage. It seems like they just started forming words at all and now all of my words have to have articulated reasons to support them.
Every child gets there. And every parent that comes in my classroom has experienced it—or will very soon.
“It’s time to go home, honey,” a mom will say when she picks her child up.
“Because it’s dinnertime.”
“Because we’re hungry.”
Because. Just because.
But toddlers are people, too, and their “Why?” questions point to a human reality that may be hidden deep but resides in each of us.
There are things we wonder about.
I know that headings aren’t inspired, but my Bible translation divides Mark 2 into four passages which are (paraphrased): Jesus heals a paralytic, Jesus calls a tax collector to be a disciple, people notice Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast, and people saw Jesus disciples’ pick grain on the Sabbath.
If we take each of these as separate stories, we can draw out applications and catalog the stories in our memories. We can make our little outline and determine what we’re supposed to think about it.
But they’re one story—just like the entire Bible itself. And if we read them together, we’ll see something: In each of these four passages, somebody asks “Why?”
And none of them are toddlers.
Mark 2:7 ‘“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”’
Mark 2:16 ‘“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”’
Mark 2:18b ‘“Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”’
Mark 2:24b ‘“Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”’
In the first two accounts, somebody questioned what Jesus did. Then, in the next two scenarios, questions came up when people saw what Jesus’ disciples did.
Did you catch that? Jesus was being judged by what His followers did. His disciples were doing something different, and people noticed. Their opinions of Jesus and His ministry were affected by their opinions of the disciples.
The same, of course, is true today: Jesus is judged by His followers. We have all met people who don’t go to church because they went to one full of hypocrites—and if Jesus’ followers are like that, they don’t want to meet Jesus.
But hopefully, more often, we will be judged because we are different in ways we are supposed to be different. As sinners saved by grace and headed toward abundant life forever, we are on a different path than the rest of the world. We are different.
And since we’re different, the questions will come. Sometimes gently and honestly, other times harshly and judgmentally. How are we to respond?
Jesus Always Answers
It points to something deeper than a developmental stage when we see that all of us ask “why” sometimes. There’s something in us as humans—different from all the rest of creation—that looks for the purpose and, if we don’t find it, asks about it.
And it points to something great in Him that He always answers. He didn’t answer any of these questions with “Because.” Jesus answered each one, sometimes by asking another question and always by probing to their heart issues.
With our Savior’s example in mind, we can learn how to respond to the questions we will meet.
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:13-16).
We all have questions, even when we grow up. It might be that some people question Jesus because of something they see in us. May it be because we are different in a way we should be different.
And may we be prepared to answer them, with hope and grace seasoning every word.