But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.
Recently, a well-known scientist, writer and broadcaster asked a question on Twitter. It didn’t go down well with thousands of people who felt the question shouldn’t even have been asked. If you know anything about Twitter, you’ll know it can be a hostile space. The scientist attempted to defend himself, saying he had merely asked a question, but his audience had heard something in his tone which seemed to indicate his mind was made up.
Similarly, Pontius Pilate responds to Jesus’ defence with a question in John 18:37-38 (ESV):
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
Genuine questions open doors of discovery, but in the cases of Pilate and the scientist, their doors seem to be firmly locked. Compare this with the woman in our reading. An encounter with Jesus, who proclaims his messianic role and miraculously tells her ‘everything I have ever done’, inspires her to tell her friends what she has witnessed.
‘He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ continues her journey of faith, and as she brings a crowd back with her to meet Jesus, perhaps they were devising lots of questions to ask him.
Prime Minister’s Questions can be considered a national spectacle, where Opposition and Government spar with words, asking questions that are constructed to challenge, and often with answers that avoid the question altogether! Citizens can feel disconnected from the politics they see. The Joint Public Issues Team seeks to encourage ‘a politics characterised by listening, kindness and truthfulness’. Asking genuine questions of our elected representatives is an important part of our witness – if we can listen with kindness and urge truthfulness.
What questions are you asking today? And are you listening?
In a world of lies and half-truths,
doubt and misplaced trust,
help me today to listen
to the cry of the poor,
the angry, the voiceless,
and the call of Jesus
who hears each question
and answers with truthful love.