Jesus asking questions creates some of my favorite bits of scripture, partly because the concept makes me smile. Jesus? Asking questions? It just sounds funny, because He’s Jesus. What could He possibly want to know that He doesn’t already? But I think that’s the point. He already knows. But perhaps we who answer…don’t.
One of my favorite questions He asks is in Mark 10:51.
Jesus asks a blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?”
I have to stop every time I read this. What an absolutely crazy question!
If Jesus called me over to him, after I’d been waiting years and years for him to arrive, and asked me that, what on earth would I say?
If I was in that coffee shop I go to consistently on Tuesday mornings every week, and Jesus walked in, called me over to His table, and asked me with no warning, “What do you want me to do for you?” How would I answer Him?
The man, named Bartimaeus, is blind and begging outside the city of Jericho. Jesus and his disciples are leaving the city, on their way to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus hears who is passing by and calls out for mercy. Jesus calls him over and asks the very simple question. It’s almost too simple. I wonder if Bartimaeus did a double take.
Like, Really? You don’t know?
The answer is obvious, right? Bartimaeus is blind. Surely, Jesus knows that, or at least can observe it. Why then does He ask? I’m convinced it was 100% for the man’s benefit. Did he know what he wanted? Did he believe Jesus could do it for him? Did he have the faith to bring his request before Jesus?
Jesus had actually just asked this very same question only a few verses earlier to his own disciples. James and John come to him and say, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask” (10:35).
Wow. I always frown when I read that. Not in disdain towards the disciples, but in self-recognition.
How many times do I come before my Lord in prayer with a to-do list for Him that I’d like finished as soon as possible?
Um. A lot. (*Embarrassed blushing*)
Jesus asks them anyway though. “What do you want me to do for you?” (10:36)
He listens to their list, which in this case is a request to sit beside Him in His glory. They want the places of honor next to him.
But they get a response that I doubt they expect.
“You do not know what you are asking.” (10:38)
I love that about Jesus. I love how He does not take offense at the arrogant remark and turns it into a learning opportunity for His disciples. What they want reveals their hearts and their values, and He points it out graciously.
“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.” (10:43-45)
They want to be great and honored, but as Jesus points out, asking Him to reserve their seat at the dinner table is not quite how to go about achieving that.
I wonder sometimes about how often Jesus intercedes on my behalf while I pray, translating prayers for me when I’m asking for things I don’t understand or know the repercussions of. I’m guessing it’s kinda a lot.
However, as grateful as I am for Him doing that, I’m pretty sure that grateful wouldn’t be my reaction if I heard those words from Him as He stood directly in front of me.
You do not know what you are asking.
How embarrassing. I think my face is going red just thinking of it.
So in order to avoid that scenario altogether, part of me would want to answer His question with, “You know me so much better than I know myself. You know exactly what it is I need and what’s best for me. So whatever that is, whatever you’ve got in mind, that’s what I want.”
But that response is so general. It’s not specific in the slightest. And that makes me wonder if perhaps that defeats the point of His question. In other words, if I answered that way, I think Jesus would repeat the question back to me again. Not because He doesn’t know the answer, but because I don’t.
And how can I express faith to move mountains, if I’m blind to which mountains need moving.
Someone once told me that spiritual maturity is not measured by how much we do for God, but by how much we can receive from Him.
The Gospel is a story of grace. A grace I must live in every moment of every day. God delights in giving gifts to those who love Him. Gifts like grace, forgiveness, joy, peace, love, and so much more. Our ability to do things for Him is put on pause when something hinders us from receiving those things from Him. Things we need on a daily basis.
We cannot give away what we do not have.
“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
How can I give away a forgiveness I haven’t received? How can I show a grace that wasn’t first given to me?
When Jesus asks that question, our answers reveal the mountains that need moving in our minds, our current state. It reveals the most concrete thing that we believe in that moment, and as a result, it reveals our faith. Which, in the end, is the reason Bartimaeus’ sight was returned. Jesus hears a man calling out for mercy (not honor) and asks him a question.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” (10:51-52)
Sometimes Jesus shows up walking past our Jericho road where we’ve been begging for something that isn’t actually what we want. Perhaps we’ve been looking for an earthly solution for so long that we can’t provide an answer for what we really want anymore.
I love how that’s not the case with Bartimaeus. He doesn’t walk up to Jesus and ask for money or food, like he has been from everyone else. He hears that it’s Jesus who is passing by, cries out for mercy, and then asks for what only Jesus can give him, because he has faith Jesus can do it.
Rabbi, I want to see.
And the mountain moves.
“Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you!” (10:49)
When Jesus calls me, I want to jump to my feet like Bartimaeus did, and I don’t want to hand him a to-do list when I get to Him like He’s some sort of genie and I have infinite wishes. I want to have an answer, and I want it to count. I just pray I have the faith to answer Him whenever He asks me.
I don’t really know what my answer would be at this moment though. If Jesus was looking me in the eye and asked me what I wanted…
I can only imagine…
“Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus? Or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in your presence? Or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine…when all I will do, is forever, forever worship you.” – MercyMe, I Can Only Imagine