Mark 10 concludes with two different stories.
The first story involves James and John (Matthew’s gospel includes their mother as well) approaching Jesus saying, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (vs. 35). Is this not a striking thing to hear someone say to Jesus? I can’t even imagine attempting to say something like this to my parents and it ending well for me. Much less to Jesus Himself?? To James, John, and their mother: bold. move. Nonetheless, Jesus responds with, “What do you want me to do for you?” (vs. 36). They reply, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (vs. 37). Now, the story goes on but I am going to pause here and move on to the second story for just a minute.
The second story involves a blind man, named Bartimaeus, who, when He heard that Jesus was passing by, verses 47- 48 tell us “he began to cry out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!”. Jesus then asks Bartimaeus , “What do you want me to do for you?” (vs. 51). He replies, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
So, in these two different stories I can’t help but see a few similarities. I tried my best to briefly sum up the majority of these two stories in the same way so that you can easily see them. One, both stories involve someone approaching Jesus. Two, both stories involve Jesus asking the exact same question, “What can I do for you?”. Three, both stories reveal a type of motive when approaching Jesus. I believe there is a lot to take away from the third similarity. Here’s why.
James and John belonged to Jesus’ “inner circle”. This being the main reason I was so taken back by their approach to Jesus. “Hey, Jesus, um, real quick…me and my brother want you to give us whatever we ask for and for starters we would like to be seated next to you, you know…in that special position of honor in your glory.” This approach seems a little arrogant, self-centered, and “gimme-gimme”. I wouldn’t expect a couple of guys that were so close with Jesus to be so demanding of getting what they wanted out of Him and about as blunt as you can be about it (ouch…this hurt me just typing it because I can be so guilty of this).
On the other hand, Bartimaeus, someone who was blind, not in Jesus’ “inner circle”, and rebuked by many for reaching out to Jesus, approaches Him by saying, “Have mercy on me!”. What a contrast! This approach seems much more genuine, humble, and, in a good way, broken.
I believe 100% that God desires we go to Him. God wants a relationship with His people. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we now have access to Almighty God and He welcomes us with open arms–always. However, what do our motives in going to Him look like? Are they prideful, “wish-list-like”, and demanding–expecting to get what we want or what we think we deserve? Or is our approach one that is broken, constantly seeking the mercy of God before seeking anything else He can bless us with?
The disciples missed the point (as do I far too often). They approached Jesus to get something out of it. I talked with my brother Stephen on the phone this morning about this passage and he said something short, but quite profound, “The disciples wanted the glory without having to deal with the cup. You cannot have the glory without the cup.” Meaning, Jesus was going to suffer and die, and as a result, His followers are going to suffer. The disciples skipped over asking for peace through the suffering, or the strength to persevere. They went straight for the “good stuff”. They went to Jesus to hear what they wanted to hear and to get what they wished for. Instead, Jesus had to teach them yet again the importance of servant leadership and thinking about the interests of others before their own (vs. 43-45). Jesus is attempting to heal their spiritual blindness, just as much as He would later go on to heal the physical blindness of Bartimaeus, who after became a follower of Jesus (vs. 52)! God always has a way of prioritizing our spiritual needs above our physical ones.
So, if Jesus asked you today, “What do you want me to do for you?”, what would your response be? Would we be more concerned with our glory or His mercy?
Jesus, help me to respond to and approach You the way Bartimaeus did. May I first recognize my brokenness and need for Your mercy above any other physical need or want that I may have. May I first acknowledge who You are rather than what You can do for me. Keep me from treating you like a genie in a bottle or a Santa Claus, because my faith in You is not a blind one. You will always come through. Jesus, may you be treasured.