It’s so glaringly obvious, surely I’ve noticed it before. I mean, it might as well be highlighted, underlined, and written in bold italics. And all caps. Sparkly ones.
At any rate, whether I’ve noticed it before or not, I noticed it today, and I have to admit I wasn’t too comfortable with the implications.
You know the passage from Mark 10. James and John come to Jesus and say, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
Two observations right off. First, they called Him Teacher. Not Lord or King or Messiah. And then they essentially asked for a blank check. Like a little kid saying, “Daddy, promise you’ll give me whatever I want for my birthday,” before asking for a pony, a trip to Disneyland, and a life-time supply of ice cream.
And Jesus, who already knew exactly what they were going to ask, says, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
And they fell down dead for their presumption? He rebuked them for their selfish ambition? Thunder rolled and lightning flashed and everyone trembled with fear?
No. He simply said, “You do not know what you are asking.”
Sometimes scripture tells us how Jesus felt — angry or compassionate or sad. Other times we can only speculate based on context and the reaction of those present. In this case, there’s no evidence that He yelled or His eyes flashed angry or He bowed His head in deep sorrow. In my imagination I hear His voice quiet. Tender. However He spoke, clearly they weren’t afraid. When He asked if they were able to share His cup or baptism, they didn’t hesitate to say, “We are able.”
I wonder what they thought He meant. The cup of luxury? The baptism of power?
And here’s a marvel. Jesus doesn’t set them straight. He simply says, yes, you will share My cup and My baptism, but I can’t grant you the honor you seek. “It is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
What a mysterious and intriguing statement! No doubt His disciples gathered closer, longing to understand this prearranged kingdom order! But no. They were too busy being indignant at James and John, and again, we can only guess their motives. Offense for Jesus’ sake? I doubt it. More likely offense for themselves. Because Jesus calls them near and explains (again) the upside down kingdom. “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
And now we get to the glaringly obvious part. How have I missed this?
Jesus and His ambitious friends move on, and when they leave Jericho accompanied by a crowd, they pass a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. He hears that Jesus is passing by and cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Not Teacher, but Son of David! Messiah! Coming King!
The crowd hushes him, but he cries out all the more, and Jesus says, “Come.”
And then He asks again. The exact same words. He who already knows all things. Does He ask because we need to know?
“What do you want Me to do for you?”
“Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
I want to see, he says. Please. Let me see.
And Jesus says, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”
And the blind man recovers his sight, and he goes his way. But which way might that be?
The scripture says he followed Him.
And then it hits me. The disciples were the blind ones. “We are able to drink the cup,” they said, expecting a gilded throne, not the agony of the cross. They wanted perks, rewards, recognition. They sought their own glory, not His.
And the Voice of my Beloved whispers soft (no thunder, no lightning), and I hear the same question asked of me.
What do you want Me to do for you?
Do you want to be followed, or to follow?
Do you want to be seen, or to see?
And I can’t hide the answer, because He already knows. My heart bows low in repentance.
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. Create in me a clean heart, that I might answer truly:
I want to follow You.
I want to see.
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Joining with community to consider the spiritual practices of humility and love.