‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (Mark 10:51 NIVUK)
If Jesus were to ask you the same question he asked Bartimaeus, how do you think you would answer? James and John had heard that question before. Jesus asked it of them when they approached him on the way to Jerusalem, and they responded by requesting,
‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’ (Mark 10:37) To which Jesus said they didn’t know what they were asking for
(Mark 10:38). Bartimaeus, on the other hand, knew what he was asking for and answered,
‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ (Mark 10:51)
It’s interesting that Mark arranges these two accounts together in his gospel in order to teach his readers something. Jesus wants to do for James, John, and the rest of his disciples, what he does for Bartimaeus: he wants to open their eyes. He wants them to see the way of the Lord as clearly as they see the road before them leading to Jerusalem. He wants them to see that the road leads to glory, but not in the way they supposed.
The Son of Man is coming into his kingdom, but the chief priests and scribes will condemn him and hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him, spit on him, scourge him, and kill him. Those who want to share in his reign must drink his cup and share his baptism. They must deny themselves and take up their crosses, lose their lives to save them. They must become last of all and servant of all. They must receive the kingdom as children.
James, John and the rest of the disciples weren’t ready for that, they didn’t even know what Jesus was talking about. Bartimaeus, however, knew he was blind, and he knew what to ask for. The disciples are blind but don’t know it, so they don’t know what to ask for.
An appropriate response from James and John to Jesus’ question would have been what Bartimaeus said,
‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ Incredibly a blind beggar answered correctly, and Jesus’ own disciples got it horribly wrong.
How about us?
By placing these accounts side by side Mark is showing that Jesus’ followers shouldn’t want to ask him for preferential treatment or seats of honour, but rather for spiritual insight, to see clearly who Jesus is, what he came to do, and how we should respond to that in our own lives.
Now that’s something I want to ask Jesus to do for me.
Father, open the eyes of our hearts to see Jesus more clearly, to love him more dearly, and to follow him more nearly,
Have a good week seeing Jesus,