Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”
That’s an incredible question – wrapped around an offer – that would be amazing coming from anyone; it’s even more astounding when it’s posed by Jesus. How would you reply?
It happens twice, recorded back-to-back in Mark 10; each offers a weighty insight about what people can hope for when they encounter Jesus, and what it takes – from them – to go away satisfied.
Bartimaeus was easy to miss. He was a fixture on the streets of Jericho: a blind beggar who was always looking for charity from people coming past. One day, he changed his tune: his pointed appeal was powerful. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The crowd in Jericho saw Jesus as a celebrity; Bartimaeus – who couldn’t see – understood him to be the long-awaited Messiah, who had more to offer than shekels. Jesus heard his shouted declaration, called for him to approach and asked the question: “What do you want me to do for you?”
He didn’t propose a settlement; there were no dollar signs in his reply. “Rabbi, I want to see.” He was more insightful than most of the seeing people in the crowd. If Jesus is offering, go for the win: he needed to be made whole. The result? “‘Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.’”
People who are broken come to Jesus, ask for him to act in mercy, and are never disappointed. That’s where life – real life – begins. Instant transformation: “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus…”
Change of scenes: just before that astounding story in Mark 10 is an encounter between two of Jesus’ followers who were in training to lead. James and John were hoping to cut an insider deal.
“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.”
These brothers were two of twelve who had been selected by Jesus for training that would lead to significant assignments when he triggered his succession plan, but they sensed an opportunity to trigger a coup against their 10 colleagues. They knew that Jesus was heading for power… and their human view assumed that backroom deals would elevate the elite and favor the bold. Would it work?
Jesus had made them whole; since becoming followers of Jesus, they knew he had authority. He asked them the question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Why not go for greatness?
His answer probably shocked them: “To sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” What they heard made them inquisitive; what the ten heard made them indignant. Jesus did what great leaders do: he got everyone in the same room and laid out the game plan. “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it 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.”
Jesus asked Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” He came to be made whole, and Jesus granted his request. The prerequisite was simple: his faith triggered the solution.
Jesus asked James and John: “What do you want me to do for you?” They came for greatness in the Kingdom, expecting that it would be granted as a political favor. Instead, they heard that greatness is open to anyone whose faith catalyzes extreme service to others, modeled after the Master whose example would be the extraordinary exception to the way people in earthly kingdoms vie for power.
Jesus is still asking the question: “What do you want me to do for you?” What are you looking for? Wholeness is a gift through faith; greatness is a reward for works of service.
Do you have what it takes to get what you came for?