What do you want me to do for you? Mark 10, verse 51. Can you imagine Jesus coming by and asking you that. I wonder what you’d say. We tend to make the mistake of being too focussed on what we are doing for Jesus. Will you come and follow me? Call! All that stuff. And it’s important. Jesus does ask us to do things for him. That’s discipleship. But the basis of our relationship with our Lord is not what we do for him, but what he does for us. I find it fascinating that this question is actually asked twice in this chapter. It first comes in verse 36. What is it you want me to do for you? On this first occasion the question is asked by Jesus of James and John. They have said: Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you. And what they want is to sit one at your right hand and one at your left. How on earth could they make such a request? That, most likely, is the sort of response that will come to our minds as we ponder this incident. Could these disciples really be so far of the mark in their thinking and asking? Yet, as always, before we too readily and too speedily condemn, let’s just reflect on how we might put ourselves into this story. This was clearly important to these two. What does Jesus do when we go to him with something that is important to us? I think that the one thing he does is that he takes our request seriously and that for us, as for these two, the thing that is needed, the thing with which we need help, is to think through the implications of the request. Where that may lead is another question. For James and John that led to them being helped to see the impossibility of what they were asking. Sometimes that is how it is. Other times it may take us in unexpected and challenging directions. Other times we may find ourselves experiencing of the abundance that comes from God.
But let’s say something of the other encounter in this chapter which leads to Jesus asking the very same question. It’s a very different scenario. Jesus is on the road. He is leaving Jericho – and a blind beggar shouts out to attract his attention. And Bartimaeus is asked by Jesus: what do you want me to do for you? The folk around didn’t expect Jesus to pay attention to Bartimaeus. Indeed, they tried to stop him from interrupting Jesus. But if we ask something of Jesus, he will take our request seriously. And so he does. As Leith Fisher puts it: “he shows in actions more powerful than any words that, in the eyes of God, no one is nobody; everyone has a name, a place and a value.” And, of course, Bartimaeus knows exactly what he wants: My teacher, let me see again. And this time it is not a case of explaining why not. Go, your faith has made you well. Immediately he regained his sight and followed.
And so there is a challenge to consider with respect to what it is that we are asking of God. As Ched Myers points out: “Mark draws a devastating contrast between this beggar’s initiative and the aspirations of the disciples. .. Jesus had asked James and John “What do you want me to do for you?” To the beggar’s petition, Jesus responds with exactly the same words. But how different the requests! The disciples wished for status and privilege; the beggar simply for his vision. The one Jesus cannot grant, the other he can.” And Myers adds: “ .. only if we renounce our thirst for power – in a word, only if we recognise our blindness and seek true vision – then can the discipleship adventure carry on.”