Question of the Week – “What do you want me to do for you?”
Our scripture this week has three requesters, who were two very different sets of people, with quite diverse attitudes. Twice in this passage Jesus takes the role of a servant and makes himself available.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
If you remember, last week Jesus asked the question, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And he answered his own question right away. This week, after the three requesters approach him, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” And then he waits for their response.
The disciples, James & John, had been following Jesus and recognized that in some sense He was the Messiah (they have some vision), but it seems their spiritual sight was still greatly impaired. How in the world should the request made in verses 35-36 be answered? Is there anywhere in your life where you have a similar attitude when you pray? What sort of unreasonable requests do we sometimes ask of God? In what ways do we vie for power and authority? What value did Jesus place on serving? On status? On greatness?
Ironically, it seems Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, is the one who has clear spiritual vision. Seeing his need for Jesus to have mercy on him and knowing that Jesus alone could meet his need, Bartimaeus is ready to believe in Jesus at all costs with humble, desperate, dependent, and persistent faith—and in “seeing” Jesus, he follows Him. Have you ever cried loudly for Jesus to have mercy on you?
The disciples’ and Bartimaeus’ conversations lead us deep into Jesus’ way of teaching, starting with the sort of untamed desire that lies behind many of our prayers when we ask for things to go our way. In prayer there is much “throwing our cloaks aside”…much letting-go. We hand over disappointments, hurts and grief as best we can to Jesus who loves us and gives much more in return…when he asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
I look forward to sharing more with you on Sunday. Hope to see you then!