QUESTIONS JESUS ASKED: What do you want me to do for you? - Mark 10:46-52
By Ted Schroder,
February 19, 2017
Twice it is recorded in the Gospels that Jesus asked, "What do you want?" (John 1:38); "What do you want me to do for you?" (Matt.20:32; Mk.10:51; Lk.18:41) The first was when John and Andrew were directed to Jesus by John the Baptist and they followed him. They were curious about Jesus and intrigued by John the Baptist calling him "the Lamb of God." The second was outside Jericho when Bartimaeus and another blind man called out to Jesus, as the Son of God, to have mercy on them. They wanted to be healed and be able to see. In a sense, on both occasions the answer to the question, "What do you want?" was being able to see -- see who Jesus was as the Revealer of God and as the Lamb who would take away the sin of the world.
How would you answer the question of Jesus? "What do you want me to do for you?" What insight do you need to know? What blind spot do you have? What intrigues you about Jesus? What pressing need do you have in your life now? If Jesus were passing by, what would you say if he asked you, "What do you want me to do for you?"
So many of us have questions, doubts, uncertainties, and fears, that we would like to have resolved. We cannot see through the fog of life's daily challenges to satisfactory conclusions. We are confronted with declining health of ourselves or our loved ones. We are having to deal with the problems of our family members. We are troubled by the national mood and the turbulence of politics. We face divided loyalties in our relationships. We worry about the future. We despair when we see the hatred and cruelty of so many in the world and the suffering they cause. We long for love to conquer loneliness, for joy to overcome sorrow, and for peace to calm conflict. We see so much unhappiness, so many complaints, so much suffering, so much illness and disability, so much darkness and so many self-inflicted wounds. How can Jesus meet all these needs?
"What do you want me to do for you?" What would you say? As I reflect upon that question for myself I am led to answer: "I want to be spiritually mature in Christ. I want to be filled with the Spirit. Nurture in me the fruit of the Spirit so that my life would be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." I want to be more loving, more joyful, more at peace, more patient, more kind, more good, more faithful, more gentle, more self-controlled.
What about you? Bartimaeus wanted to be able to see -- to be healed of his blindness. Jesus healed many people but not all. Not everyone got what they wanted even though they were encouraged to pray for healing and other needs. Wanting something does not mean that we will always get it. This was true for Jesus in his humanity.
In the Garden of Gethsemane he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." A second time he prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." He prayed a third time, saying the same thing (Matthew 26:39,42,44). As a man in the prime of life he did not want to have to suffer a painful and horrible death and bear the sins of the world. None of us would. Yet all of us have to suffer pain and eventually all of us have to die. We all have to learn how to die. None of us want to have to drink that cup of pain. Yet Jesus qualified this want by a higher want -- to fulfill God's will for his life and purpose as Savior. Sometimes our wants, our desires, are superseded by higher needs. Our prayers are contingent upon God's higher will for our lives which we may not know now.
St. Paul had a similar want. He was given a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment him. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:7-10). His want of deliverance from his tormenting affliction (whether it was physical, emotional, mental, or something else we don't know) was denied him so that he could experience Christ's power of grace. His presenting problem became the means for a greater need.
Southern Gothic author, Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964), suffered from the incurable and painful disease of lupus, which would eventually kill her at age 39. A devout Roman Catholic in Milledgeville, Georgia, she was regular in devotional reading, prayer and attendance at Mass. Despite her affliction she worked as hard as she could, often only two hours a day, on her writing and correspondence.
"She described her condition as one of 'passive diminishment' -- a phrase borrowed from the Catholic theologian Teilhard de Chardin. This referred to 'those afflictions that you can't get rid of and have to bear. Those that you can get rid of he believes you must bend every effort to get rid of.' She always appeared more concerned about her writing and her friends than about her physical health. She reluctantly made a trip to Lourdes, the sanctuary famous for the curative powers attributed to it, but quipped that the only miracle she saw there was that despite all the sick people sharing the waters, no outbreak of an epidemic occurred. She claimed that 'sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don't have it miss one of God's mercies.'" (Craddock and Goldsmith, Speaking of Dying, p.156)
"What do you want me to do for you?" The question is like that of the genie who grants us three wishes. Be careful what you wish for. If all our prayers were answered the way we want them to we may be in trouble. John and Andrew asked Jesus where he was staying. Jesus said to John and Andrew, "Come and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent the day with him. They were never the same again. They became his disciples, his apostles, and the foundation of his church. What we ask for, and what we get depends on our motivation, and our willingness to do God's will in our lives -- to fulfill God's plan and purpose for our lives.
"What do you want me to do for you and for those you love?" What do you ask for in your prayers? "God is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of -- infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes" (Ephesians 3:20 TLB). What is God's will for your life? Are you willing to trust that he will do it if you surrender your life to him? You need to pray "God, help me to do what you want me to do in Christ's power. May Christ's power rest on me."
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