In Mark chapter 10, Jesus twice asks the question “What do you want Me to do for you?”. Two different situations, two different replies, and two different responses from Jesus.
The first time, James and John tried to pull a fast one on Jesus. They asked “Will You give us whatever we want?”. That tells me something about how they saw Jesus – He was a sugar daddy, not a friend. And they were more childish than childlike. Jesus asks His question that gets to the heart of the matter: What do you want Me to do? And these children want a pony.
Whoops – sorry, wrong story. They want to be seated on the right and left hand seats beside Jesus. Not now, but when He is seated on His throne in glory. You know, the time when everybody (and I mean that in the sense of “everybody”) will be looking in that direction. And here I thought the entitlement culture was a recent event.
Jesus, though, had other ideas and plans. And He wanted to test the waters. So He asked these two if they were willing to walk the same road as Jesus. James and John, with much more enthusiasm than understanding, said “Yup!”. That’s when Jesus told them they were half right – yes, they would suffer and die in a similar manner, but that Jesus didn’t have the authority to do seating arrangements in Heaven.
In contrast to these enthusiastic puppies, full of self-centered energy, there is Blind Bart, a beggar. He, like James and John, is energetic and focused on himself – but there’s a difference. “Son of God, have mercy on me!” The people around him can’t get him to shut up, and – oh, it’s too late, here comes Jesus. And again the question: What do you want Me to do for you? Blind Bart, not surprisingly, wants his sight. And Jesus gives it to him, boom!
So why the difference? Two sets of people coming to Jesus, wanting something for themselves. And Jesus asks an identical question, with different outcomes.
I think the difference is the intent behind the answers to Jesus’ questions. His disciples, though they had been with Jesus for years, and were immersed in all His teachings, were selfish. They were glory hounds. Even though they got the part about Jesus being a King in eternity, they wanted some of that glory to be theirs, forever. They wanted more than they deserved.
Blind Bart, on the other hand, wanted to be made whole. We don’t know if he had been born blind – we do know his desire was to be made whole. Not to be rich, nor to have that really cool villa in the nice part of town, nor to sit beside Jesus in eternity. This adult man only wanted what almost every newborn infant has, the gift of sight. Jesus, the healer, the great physician, granted him his wish. Blind Bart became Bartimaeus.
Again, why the two different outcomes? Jesus didn’t change – He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The questions to Jesus didn’t change – they are word-for-word identical. The difference must be in the intent behind the question. And in both cases, Jesus accomplished the same thing, even though He denied one request and granted the other. In both cases, God was glorified. In deferring the seating chart, Jesus gives honors to Him who sees and controls all. In restoring a blind man, Jesus acknowledged His Father’s authority and showed God’s love and desire for us to be made whole.
I think that the author of It is well with my soul may have had Bartimaeus in mind when he wrote “And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight”. The song is clearly referring to Jesus’ return to earth. It also applies to no-longer-blind Bart, and can apply to any of us.
It’s not the question that we ask of Jesus, it’s the intent.