If you are following along with us with our daily Bible readings, one recent passage we read is from Mark 10:35-52. The second half of that passage, the story of “Blind Bartimaeus” in verses 46-52, is very special to me. This is the passage I preached when I did my trial sermon at my former church, Crestline Church of Christ, in the fall of 2000. That trial sermon in turn resulted in my being the pastor of that congregation for seven years, seven really good years that still hold sweet memories for me and Heather.
The line in this story that caught my attention those twenty years ago (!) is still the line that caught my attention when I read the passage this time around. The line comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. After calling the blind Bartimaeus to Himself, Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Now on one level, that is simply a practical question; Jesus needed to know what the man wanted so He asked him. On another level, though (and our Lord is always operating on multiple levels), it is an incredibly spiritual question. It is a question intended to reveal Bartimaeus’ desires, the things Bartimaeus valued, Bartimaeus’ heart. Jesus was not only asking what Bartimaeus wanted but what he should want. Jesus was asking Bartimaeus and us all what is right to want.
Possible Answers to Jesus’ Question
And there are many possible answers to that question. Those were the points of that sermon I delivered on that Sunday in 2000 at Crestline: the possible answers to the question, “What do you want Jesus to do for you?” I still remember those points and possible answers today.
One is, “Nothing.” When Jesus asks you, “What do you want me to do for you?” you can reply, “I don’t want you to do anything for me. I want you to leave me alone.” There are a lot of folks who answer the question that way. They want to have no involvement with Jesus and they want Jesus to have no involvement with them. They want to live the earthly life they have been given completely apart from Jesus’ influence.
Another is, “Save me from Hell.” There are a lot of folks who answer the question that way, too. They will allow Jesus to have some involvement with them, but only as much as is required to avoid a gruesome penalty at the end of this life. What these people really want is not much different from what the people who gave our first answer wanted. What they really want is to live this earthly life; that is what they value; that is where their heart is. But since they know this earthly life ultimately ends and since they are afraid of what might happen after it ends, they are willing to give Jesus as little of that life as they have to in order to escape what they fear.
Yet another is, “Bless me.” This one is typically called “the prosperity” or “health and wealth” answer. I call it “the American Dream Answer”. These people have the same value the people who gave the previous answers have, a value on this life. The difference is that they see Jesus as a way of improving this life. Jesus is to them not the end but the means. To them, He is the one who can give them prosperity, health and the American dream, so that’s what they ask for.
An Answer Grounded in Faith
And then we have Bartimaeus’ answer. When Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus replied, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Now that might look like the “Bless me” answer at first. It might look like the “Save me” answer as well. But it isn’t. Rather, this answer is, “Change me.” Bartimaeus was asking Jesus to change his way of life on a fundamental level. After receiving his sight, he would no longer be able to function as a beggar. He would have to work. So, an understanding of change was built into his request. Not only so, but that change can be seen in the way he threw his cloak aside. A blind person in that time never threw aside his cloak; he wouldn’t be able to find it again if he did. But Bartimaeus flung his aside because he knew he would be operating differently after Jesus healed him. On top of that, we are told that Bartimaeus followed Jesus along the road after his healing. He didn’t just take what Jesus gave him and leave. Rather, he stayed with Jesus. Some think he stayed with Jesus all the way to the cross. So he was certainly changed. He certainly wanted to be changed and certainly allowed himself to be changed.
So those are the possible answers to this question. And now you have to give Jesus one. You see, Jesus is asking you this question even as He asks it of Bartimaeus. As you read this text, Jesus is speaking to you through the centuries. He wants to know what you want Him to do for you, what you value, how much involvement you want with Him, how much involvement you allow Him to have with you. What will your answer be?