The message is emblazoned across the land on billboards, bumper stickers, and song lyrics: “Jesus is the answer.” But what is meant by such a message? What do the Scriptures say?
The general sentiment behind the statement is sound: the only place human beings can find real comfort and satisfaction of their deepest needs and desires is in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); the Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s power to salvation (Romans 1:16). The various philosophies of the world are vain and incomplete; we do better to be fully rooted in Christ (Colossians 2:6-10). Thus, when people experience difficulties and trials in life, they do best to turn to God in Christ; when we wrestle with the existential challenges and questions in life, we do well to put our trust in God in Christ, for we should come to know that He is the Holy One of God, who has the words of eternal life (John 6:68-69).
While the general sentiment is sound we must be careful about extending the premise too far. We do well to remember the story told of a young boy in Bible class. The Bible class teacher had asked the boy, “what has a furry tail, climbs trees, and gathers nuts?” After a pregnant pause, the young boy responded in exasperation, “I know the answer must be Jesus, but it really sounds like a squirrel!” At times some people suggest that Jesus is the only answer to every question; at other times people can become flippantly over-simplistic, brusquely dismissive of the difficulties people endure, and overly reductionist, missing compelling elements of Jesus’ life and teaching, all in the name of a slogan.
We do well to remember that Jesus is not the answer to many questions. While it is true that all things exist through Jesus and because of Jesus (Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1:3), “Jesus” is not the answer to questions like the above about the squirrel, or questions about many historical, mathematical, scientific, etc. matters we may ask. Jesus is the embodiment of God and is truth (John 14:6, Hebrews 1:1-3); yet Jesus Himself would often use agreed upon facts regarding farming, fishing, the weather, etc., as means by which to communicate spiritual truths (e.g. Matthew 13:1-43). Such facts were true because they represented the reality which was created by God in Christ (Romans 1:18-20); thus, “Jesus” need not be the answer to questions about reality.
Thus, when a person hears the statement “Jesus is the answer,” he or she might well wonder, “but what is the question?” Since the word “answer” can be used in different ways, confusion and misunderstanding can take place in many unfortunate circumstances. People ask a lot of tough questions about the world: why is there evil in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? How can a good God allow such evil as we see in the world to continue? Is Jesus really the answer to questions such as these? Christians believe that Jesus is not the cause or reason behind the difficulties in these types of questions; they believe He is the solution to the root problems and difficulties (Romans 1:16, 8:1-39). Such is why we must be very careful about slogans like “Jesus is the answer,” for whereas we might understand it to mean that Jesus is the solution, those who interpret it to refer to causes and reasons understandably reject the entire premise.
Furthermore, many have gained the impression that by opening the Scriptures or even by trusting in Jesus they will find the answers to all their questions. And yet many difficult questions find no real “answer” in terms of causes or reasons either in Scripture or in life in general. Yes, we can identify some such answers, but they prove inadequate to really address the core difficulties. This is a deficiency in the Scriptures in the vain imaginations of many; wisdom would suggest that we do well to question our questions. Perhaps the questions, as we have phrased them, can find no real answer at least in this life and possibly even in the resurrection. Perhaps the true answers are beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9). Perhaps we have put too much emphasis on finding causes or reasons behind such difficulties, assuming somehow that by having answers we can gain power over the circumstances. It is not as if people in the Bible did not have such questions; they recognized them to be vanity (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:14), left with unanswered questions, and who nevertheless trusted in God (cf. Psalms 73, 88-89, Job). God never promised that all of our questions would receive satisfactory answers; instead, God has called upon all of us to put our trust in Him as our Father, our Creator, who has shown covenant loyalty in Christ, and to accept the way of His Son as the solution to the problem of evil (Romans 5:6-11, 8:1-5, etc.).
Is Jesus the answer? God did give His Son for the sins of the world, and invites everyone to find hope and rescue in Him and in Him alone (John 3:16, Acts 4:12). Yet, in the pages of Scripture, Jesus is just as much the question. Jesus taught by questioning people (e.g. Luke 10:25-37). In proclaiming Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, lordship, and return, the Apostles have compelled all who have heard to grapple with the question: what will you do with Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Acts 2:14-41, 17:17-32)? Will you dismiss Him as a charlatan or a fraud, explain Him away as a lunatic, continue to rebel against His rule and remain in sin, or humbly subject yourself to Him as Lord and Savior? Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; we do well to take on Jesus as the question and establish Him as the answer for the hope that is in us and find salvation in Him!
Ethan R. Longhenry