Questions God Asks

What Do You Want Me to Do?

Mark 10:46-52

Teaching t12659


Review series topic. Why does the God who knows everything ask so many questions of finite, fallible people? Some of His questions unearth misbeliefs on our part. Some of His questions are rhetorical – alerting us to a problem or danger (LAST WEEK).

Sometimes His questions seem straight forward and obvious – but they are deeper than they appear. Like the Scripture as a whole, they are “shallow enough for babies to wade in, but deep enough for elephants to drown in.” The more closely we look at a passage, and the more we consider it in light of other passages, the more depth of insight and blessing it yields. This is the case with the question we’re studying this week: “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus asks this question to a blind man (read Mk.10:46-52). Jesus’ question is the hinge point of the passage – everything before builds up to it, and everything after follows from it. It appears to be a very simple question (like a waiter asking “What menu items would you like me to bring you?”). But there is more going on here. Let’s look at this event (including Jesus’ question) along three lines: what it teaches about who Jesus is, how it gives us a picture of salvation, and what it teaches us about prayer.

Who Jesus is

First of all, this passage reveals to us who Jesus is. It is one of many such passages in Mark’s eye-witness account that focus on the issue of Jesus’ identity. Note three insights:

It portrays Jesus not as a prophet or moral teacher – but as the promised Messiah. Bartimaeus publically raises the issue of Jesus’ identity by calling out to Him as “Son of David” – a Messianic title because the Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would descend from King David. The Old Testament prophets also predicted that the Messiah would restore sight to the blind (Isa.35:5,6a). So by healing Bartimaeus’ sight, Jesus is publically validating His Messianic identity.

It also portrays Jesus as a Messiah who is not too important or busy for little people, but as One who is interested in and attentive to people as individuals. Bartimaeus was worse than a nobody in this society. The Jewish religious leaders taught that people like him were being punished by God for terrible sins. So others told him to shut up (10:48), and it would have been easy for him to conclude that Jesus only had time for others who were “more important” than him. But Jesus stopped and personally requested a conversation with him (10:49). Jesus never “mass-processes” us with form letters. As God-incarnate, He is both infinite and personal – so He is able to relate to each one of us with full attention. Don’t let your past experience with distant or absent authority figures skew your view of Jesus. He is intensely interested in you, and He wants to have a deeply personal relationship with you!

It also portrays Jesus as a Messiah who is inclined to bless. His question (10:51) does not express annoyance, exasperation, or grudging compliance (“Whadda ya want!?”); it communicates His gracious inclination to give to Bartimaeus. Neither does Jesus insist that we earn His blessing (“What have you done for Me lately?”). Jesus’ question is His response to Bartimaeus’ request for mercy (10:48) – and mercy is kindness shown to the undeserving, originating in the heart of the giver – not in the merit of the recipient.

A picture of salvation

But there is more. John says that many of Jesus’ miracles were signs (DIAGRAM) – not only physical restorations, but also symbolic acts that “signify” humanity’s need for salvation, the salvation Jesus provides, and how we receive His salvation. This miracle is one of those signs.

Bartimaeus’ blindness was physical, and it was totally debilitating to him – especially in this culture (no seeing-eye dogs, no beeper “walk/don’t walk” crossings, no jobs). But Jesus spoke of physical blindness as a metaphor for the spiritual blindness that afflicts all of us (read Jn.8:12). Apart from Jesus, even the most educated and intelligent “walk in darkness” – unable to understand the meaning of life, unable to find the way to truth, unable to make our lives work, lost. But Jesus claims to be the Light of the world, willing and able to heal anyone from spiritual blindness.

Bartimaeus’ healing was physical and immediate (10:52). How wonderful to suddenly be able to see – and to have the first thing you see be the Person who healed you! This is a beautiful picture of biblical salvation – the gift of immediate ability to “see” Jesus personally for who He is (read 2Cor.4:6) – to experience His love and enlightening presence.

How did Bartimaeus receive this healing? He didn’t have to reform himself morally or fulfill vows to become religious in order to earn Jesus’ blessing. No, Jesus told him that he fulfilled the only condition – faith in Jesus (10:52). And what does this faith look like? He simply called out to Jesus as the Messiah and asked Him for mercy – and Jesus gladly healed him on the spot. That’s how the Bible says it is with us (read and explain Eph.2:8,9).

Are you willing to take your place with Bartimaeus? Are you willing to admit that you are spiritually blind? Are you willing to call out to Jesus as the Messiah and ask Him for His mercy? Then you can receive your spiritual sight today!

Important lessons about prayer

Finally, let’s consider what this passage teaches us about prayer for those of us who have entrusted ourselves to Jesus and received His salvation. Consider these important lessons:

Receiving answers to prayer is a powerful motivator in our spiritual lives. After Jesus answered Bartimaeus’ request, he wanted to follow Jesus (10:52; Lk.18:43 – glorifying God as he followed) – he didn’t have to be recruited or manipulated or cajoled! Has following Jesus become something you view more as “I have to” than “I get to?” If so, one reason is probably that you haven’t experienced answered prayer lately.

New Christians have motivation and joy because they have freshly experienced the answer to their prayer for salvation. They don’t know any better than to ask Jesus for lots of things. And because they ask lots, they receive many (though not all) of their requests – and this fills them with joy.

Many older Christians focus on unanswered requests, and to protect themselves from disappointment by asking less or asking less specifically. They rationalize not asking God for “small” things (EXAMPLE) by thinking that it’s not spiritual to do this. This relative prayerlessness pulls a major plug on their spiritual lives. You can’t have the motivation and joy of answered prayer unless you ask!

Tell Jesus specifically what you want Him to do for you. Jesus must have wanted Bartimaeus to do this because He asked him this question. Likewise, Jesus tells us to simply abide in His Word and to ask for “whatever you wish” (read Jn.15:7). Asking specifically is a key part of healthy relationship (we feel free to ask close friends for specific help). What would you think of a parent who said to his child: “You may make one general request a week?”

Many Christians believe they should just piously say: “Whatever your will is, Lord” or “Bless me, God” (in a general way). But that’s not how Paul prayed. Paul told Jesus three times that he wanted Him to take away his “thorn in the flesh.” As he asked this, Jesus showed him that He had a higher purpose for “thorn” – and this enabled him to become content without its removal. Likewise, when we start by telling Jesus honestly what we want Him to do for us, His Spirit can work with us and help us modify our request if needed (EXAMPLE). Are you spouting pious generalities, or making specific requests? Are you telling Jesus what you want Him to do for you?

Faith is important in prayer. You may have heard healer-dealer preachers use passages like this to teach that we can get whatever we want if we have enough faith. But while we should reject this misconception, we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater and miss the positive lesson it teaches. Jesus explicitly says “Your faith has made you well.” He doesn’t mean that Bartimaeus’ faith healed his blindness. Jesus healed him. Faith is not a magical power within us; it is trusting in the right Person outside of us. Faith in Jesus is choosing to trust in His love and power enough to take our needs to Him. Believing prayer is simply bringing your need to Jesus, and trusting Him to answer in the way and timing that is best (MARY IN JOHN2).

Asking Jesus to restore your “sight” is a biblical request. Bartimaeus said: “I want to regain my sight.” He was evidently not born blind – he had been able to see, and he missed his sight. As Christians, our conversion gave us spiritual sight. We became able to perceive spiritual reality – Jesus’ love for us, the Bible as God’s personally relevant Word, other people as valuable to God, spiritual warfare, etc. But it is easy to lose that sight through neglecting our relationship with Jesus, sin, affluence (Rev.3:17), etc. We cannot restore our own spiritual sight, but Jesus is willing and able to restore it if we ask Him to do so. This should be one of our prayer request priorities. That’s probably why so many passages record prayer for spiritual sight.

Paul models asking God to restore your vision of His grace (read and explain Eph.1:17-19). How we need fresh revelation of the bright future we have (in the next life and in this life)! How we need fresh revelation of how precious we are to God! How we need fresh revelation of the amazing power of the Holy Spirit that is accessible to us! No wonder Paul prayed for this for the Ephesians, many of whom were older, grounded Christians.

The Psalmist asks God to open his eyes that he might behold wonderful things in His Word (Ps.119:18). Bible study methods, commentaries and concordances, etc. all have their place in Bible study. Having regular times for private Bible reading and Bible study meetings are also important. But the most important thing as we’re about to expose ourselves to God’s Word is to ask Him what this Psalmist asks! This is by far the most important aspect of my own preparations for teachings like this teaching – and what makes the preparations so illuminating and nourishing to my soul (1Tim.4:6).

Elisha asked God to open the eyes of his servant so that he might see the angels who protected them – and God answered His prayer (2 Kings6:17). What a difference it makes to have a fresh glimpse of God’s sovereign care and protection when we feel afraid and intimated by difficulties and spiritual enemies!

The Psalmist asks God to enable him to see the hurtful way within him that God sees (Ps.139:23,24). When I realize that something is wrong inside my soul, how important it is to ask for this! I cannot figure myself out – I just get more confused and deceived. I should ask others for input, but this is the most important help, and it is available to me at all times.

Jesus saw lost people through eyes of compassion (Matt.9:36), and we can ask Him to give us this same vision. I am often annoyed and frustrated and disgusted by people. I can put on a fakey face and endure them until they go away – but I cannot change my heart into a heart of compassion. Compassion comes from the Lord, and it comes by Him enabling me to see people the way He sees them.

How often do you ask for this kind of sight? It may be that you don’t have because you don’t ask!