Imagine Jesus standing before you. As your head moves towards the sound of His voice you are astonished to hear these words:
What do you want me to do for you?
Put yourself there. Hear his words to you. How would you answer that question?
In Mark 10, James and John answered that question by essentially saying, “make us epic”. In their case Jesus’ question was provoked by their demand, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you”. They respond by telling Jesus that they wanted to sit at the His right and left hand—having a special place of honor.
A blind beggar, named Bartimaeus, answered that question differently. He simply says, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight”. Whereas the sons of Thunder wanted to be epic, Bartimaeus simply wants to be normal.
The Ideal Disciple
I’m convinced that Mark has placed these two stories together to highlight Bartimaeus as an ideal disciple: one who is desperate and sees Jesus as his only refuge. When you don’t realize how utterly inadequate and miserable your condition is, you say dumb things like, “make me epic”. Or, “yeah, we can drink the cup of suffering—we’ve got what it takes, Jesus”. And then you go back and fight with the other disciples about who Jesus loves the most.
Not so with Bartimaeus. He is desperate. And this gospel account would have us notice that Jesus “stops” for the forlorn. When you read something like, “And Jesus stopped…” you ought to stop as well. His face is set like flint to Jerusalem. This narrative is on the heels of the triumphal entry. Stopping Jesus at this point is like stopping a jet cruising down the runway ready for flight—if it stops it is for a good reason.
God wants us to know that He stops for desperate people crying out for rescue.
Bartimaeus fits that bill. He is so desperate that a crowd full of people telling him to shut up doesn’t deter him. He must have Jesus. This blind beggar has recognized what so few people in Mark’s narrative could see—that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah that is overturning the works of darkness. Rather than striving for a seat of honor in Jesus’ kingdom, blind Bartimaeus just wants a seat.
This narrative screams a question out to us: “which type of disciple are you?”
In reality I am as Bartimaeus; desperate, destitute, no hope to be found except in Jesus. But do I recognize it? Does my prayer life reflect the cries and panting of an impoverished beggar or the smug request of a fool that only sees Jesus as a means to being epic?
The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and so he is still asking today, “What do you want me to do for you?”
I pray that we answer as desperate Bartimaeus-type disciples.