‘What do you want me to do for you?’
What a great question to be asked.
My two boys have taken to bursting into the bedroom early in the morning and offering breakfast: ‘What do you want?!’ they scream with a grin of giddy glee. It’s lovely, but the reality is that I’ll have less breakfast than usual and have to clean up a disaster zone of a kitchen and bed. They seem to have the desire to deliver, but not the ability.
On the other hand, it seems like the last few years have been full of politicians preparing for elections and referendums asking the question, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ But when the vote is cast and the power is given, the promise is often broken. They seem to have the ability to deliver, but not the desire.
It is a great question, but it is always a limited question. Either people don’t have the desire or the ability to deliver. But there is One who can ask it in a limitless way and has both the desire and ability to respond accordingly. The Lord Jesus Christ. He asks the question twice in chapter 10 of Mark’s Gospel. Firstly, in v.36 to James and John and secondly, in v.51 to Bartimaeus, the blind man.
Have a read of the passage now: Mark 10:35-52.
Can you imagine if Jesus asked you that question?
‘What do you want me to do for you?’
Did you notice what the sons of Zebedee and Bartimaeus asked for? They asked for two very different things from very different motives. James and John asked for greatness, position. This desire went back to Mark 9:33 where they had been discussing it on a journey. Like many of us they wanted power and position, to be in control. On the other hand, Bartimaeus didn’t want any power, he simply wanted to see, to be pain free. As with many of us, he wanted a painless life, an end to his suffering and struggling. I think these two requests sum up the two things we tend to need and want: position and painlessness. We want a good position of power, but we don’t want any pain.
The heart of the Christian message has an amazing twist on this desire though. The Bible teaches us that the Lord Jesus came to our world and in so doing gave up his position and took on our pain in his incarnation and crucifixion. This teaches us the most important thing we could ever know.
Our greatest need is not what we think it is
For James, John and Bartimaeus, the things they requested were not what they needed the most. Their felt needs were not their most important. Rather, these were expressions and indicators of something else, something deeper and more fundamental. They were in effect idols that drew them away from their true need. You see, we are hard wired for something greater… someone greater, but we often settle or search for something far less.
I remember taking my boys to a huge indoor play area with slides, climbing frames, bikes, bouncy castles and ball pools. I had paid the entrance fee and they could play in there, with me, all day. But they quickly become sad and then angry with me when they began looking at the gambling and gaming machines with their bright lights and catchy tunes. That is all they could think about. They became obsessed. But I knew they would take all their money and disappoint them. They would have been missing out on all that was paid for. But they were quickly enslaved by the need to feed coins into a bottomless pit.
In the same way we often reject the life that God offers us in the desire for something less – and it usually involves power or painlessness. Either by making something of our lives (like having success) or masking the futility of our lives (like self-medicating with drink or drugs). C.S. Lewis famously put it like this in his essay ‘The Weight of Glory’:
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Jesus does ask us the question ‘What do you want me to do for you?’, but we often ask for far less than he has to offer. We miss out on the biggest offer in life.
Our greatest need is Christ our ransom
I love verse 45, ‘For even the Son of Man [a title Jesus used to describe himself] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ Jesus shows how he gave up his position and took on pain. He went to the cross, he gave up his life. For you… to serve you!
Jesus did this because he knew what our greatest need really was. You see, we can get positions of power, but we will ultimately die. As one man once asked a friend at a funeral: ‘How much did he leave behind?’ The answer came, ‘All of it’. This is the most difficult thing to say: Everything we do in this life will come to nothing. Even being pain free will be short lived compared to an eternity without God in hell.
But Jesus came to give us life, true life, eternal life. Life with him.
I love the end of the reading. I get excited when I see what Bartimaeus did after he gained his sight. Did you notice? Did he go on a sightseeing holiday? No. He followed Jesus. He saw Jesus and realised that he was true life.
Imagine you go to heaven and bump into Bartimaeus and you asked him about that day. How would he retell the story? I think it would go something like this: ‘Oh, it was amazing to see for the first time. The trees, the rivers, the people. But it was far better seeing Jesus, my Saviour. Oh, it was great getting to live life with sight for the next decade, but it’s been far more amazing here in heaven for the last 2000 years. The best thing about that day was not my physical sight, but my spiritual sight.’
Jesus offers us life now and forever more.
Will you ask him for it?
Perhaps you are not convinced he can deliver. You fear he is like my boys offering breakfast or politicians making promises. Well, how do you know if someone can do what they offer? Look at their track record. What is Jesus’ track record? How has he done on this promise? Let me tell you something amazing: He has kept his promise from day one and has never let anyone down. This world and heaven are full of men, women, boys and girls who can say that Jesus is both willing and able to give you what you really need – eternal life.