What Would You Ask For?
Sunday, March 08, 2020
Pastor Mark Aune
Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen.
How would you answer the question that Jesus asks in today’s reading – right now?
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Each of you is being asked the question because you showed up for worship this morning. You put aside the corona virus fear that is pulsating through our country and you came to worship and Jesus has a question for you today, “what do you want me to do for you?”
What would you ask for? How would you respond?
Keep in mind your context matters. What I mean by that is your current life status, what is going on in your life right now; what isn’t working, what are you struggling with, what do you want out of life right now, or what are you afraid of? All these things are part of your present context.
When Jesus asks this question to James and John he has just finished telling his disciples that “we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34 they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
This is the third time he has told them this very thing and they don’t understand.
They don’t see what this means.
Immediately after Jesus tells them that he must go to Jerusalem, James and John take Jesus aside and say to him, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.
I hear that and I think wow. Let us tell you what to do Jesus. Let us be in control Jesus. We really know better than you so let us show you the way.
And Jesus calmly responds, “what do you want me to do for you?”
They reply, we want power. We want status. We want to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left hand when you come into your glory, when you ascend your throne.
Some might call that 20/20 vision. These two men know what they want, and they go for it. They name it and claim it, glory be to God. But the problem is they are blind.
The only thing they see is themselves and this, this truly is a terrible form of blindness. Perhaps you know what I am talking about.
Now contrast James and John with Bartimaeus. The blind beggar. Sitting on the side of the road outside the city of Jericho. I wonder, did he sit and beg in the same spot every day.
Stuck there, day after day, hands out hoping for a piece of bread, a kind word. Pleading inside for someone to see him, acknowledge him, love him.
Bartimaeus, the outsider, the blind beggar, hears that Jesus is coming. Keep in mind hearing is a form of seeing and when Bartimaeus hears Jesus is coming he begins to shout out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
There is a stark contrast between James and John and Bartimaeus in terms of what they ask for.
I’m guessing that Bartimaeus had the greater need yet the first thing he asks for is mercy. Maybe he isn’t as blind as we think he is. Perhaps he has clearer vision than we do.
Is it possible that we are blind to our deep need for the Son of David, the Messiah, the crucified one? That we are blind to our poverty of spirit because the only thing we can see is for Jesus to do for us what we ask him to do.
Healing comes from the crucified one and it comes through the cross. The Son of David is the one who tells his disciples that he must got to Jerusalem, be mocked, spit upon, whipped, crucified and die. Blind Bartimaeus sees this truth in a way that James and John are unable to see. He sees this truth when he cries out, Son of David, have mercy on me.
How would you answer Jesus question today, what do you want me to do for you?
If you are in need of healing, then like Bartimaeus, first ask for mercy as a way to open the door so you can answer the question Jesus is asking you today.
What do you want me to do for you today?
Have mercy on me Son of David. Do you understand what that means?
It means you are confessing your faith. It means you have the vision, the ability to see more than our limited human sight can see.
Have mercy on me is spiritual 20/20 vision and it opens the door for you to answer the question that Jesus is asking you today.
James and John make a selfish request because they see power and glory as a benefit to themselves and they want the attention.
- Bartimaeus makes one request – he asks for mercy. He is asking for a relationship with Jesus.
- He is blind by our human standards and he knows his own poverty, yet he sees the way that connects him to life.
- He sees the one he wants to follow, to know, to love. Bartimaeus is healed before he even regains his eyesight.
Take heart, get up, he is calling you. Yes you.
Do you hear the invitation?
Do you see your own blindness?
Do you recognize that you too are a beggar?
Can you imagine the sweet music this invitation was to the ears and the heart of blind Bartimaeus?
Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, the cloak of fear, the cloak of shame, the cloak of unbelief and he leaps to his feet and he goes to Jesus as Jesus calls his name. Keep in mind he is still blind; he cannot see yet a deeper and a more powerful light guides him in this moment. For Bartimaeus sees with his heart and not his eyes. He sees with what we would call the eyes of faith.
This is the kind of eyesight that isn’t clouded by fear or by a desire for power and prestige.
- It is seeing with the eyes of the heart that focus on the one who brings mercy through the cross.
- Mercy that heals.
- Mercy that brings clarity.
- Mercy that frees us up to see Jesus, love Jesus and follow Jesus.
And I believe that once we have this kind of vision, vision that sees Jesus as the crucified and risen one, the pressing and fearful need we have will not seem or feel so pressing and fearful.
I believe we will in fact see our blindness, our poverty, and our deep need for healing in a new and different way. We will know and trust that the only thing we need to say is,
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.
Thanks be to God. Amen