What Do You Want Me to Do for You?
Mark 10:46-52    October 24, 2021

 At the end of the year, the Washington Post asked readers to sum up the past year in one word.

Give that a moment’s thought.

What one word would you choose to describe the past year?

Over two thousand people responded, and here are their top five choices:

#1 Exhausting

One person who chose that word wrote, “All of our challenges have been drawn-out, slow-motion car wrecks. … I feel trapped in a corner, and all I can do is try to block the next thing that gets thrown at me.”

#2 Lost

One person wrote, “We’ve lost our way as a country. The year was lost for students, families, weddings, holidays, positive human interaction. Lives were lost unnecessarily to disease. It feels like being lost in the wilderness with no compass.”

#3 Chaotic

One person wrote, “Coronavirus, aftermath of general election… families being torn apart. I do not recognize this country anymore.”

#4 Relentless

One person wrote, “The hits just kept on coming. The good, the bad, the ugly.”

#5 Surreal

One person wrote, “There have been terrible and beautiful moments in 2020 — but all of them seem larger and more disjointed than normal life progressions or conditions. Extraordinary situations and behaviors — by people, groups, even countries — have ruled the day.”

With all this uncertainty and anxiety playing as the background score to our lives, is it any wonder that we are craving some semblance of control and security for ourselves?

We see countless examples of people attempting to do this in selfish, angry, and often destructive ways, but Jesus invites us to healthier ways.

Last week, Michael showed us how two of Jesus’ disciples, the brothers James and John, grabbed for control and security in just the way most of us would have done if the opportunity came our way.

Mark deliberately placed that episode immediately before today’s passage in order to contrast the two.

It made perfect sense.

Their anxiety must have gone through the roof when Jesus announced that he would soon be betrayed and crucified.

At the same time, they had just witnessed Jesus feed the multitudes, they had gasped at his healing of the deaf and mute man, and they had thrilled at his walking on water.

What better person to give them the security and power they craved?

So, they got Jesus off to the side and said that they had a special request.

Jesus asked (v. 36) What do you want me to do for you?

If you were face-to-face with Jesus, what would you ask for?

How do you think Jesus could restore your sense of security and control?

Well, if Jesus was, in fact, going to die they asked for the logical thing:

Mark 10:37 “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

Would that be cool, or what?

Of course, Jesus’ idea of greatness is the inverse of what they had expected, so he replied (vs. 43-4)
… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave to all.

Maybe they slapped their foreheads … why hadn’t they seen that coming?

But Jesus was about to give them another opportunity to learn this lesson as they were leaving Jericho on the final leg of their journey to Jerusalem.

As Paula just read, a blind man sitting outside the city gates called his own request out to Jesus.

Whereas the previous narrative was between Jesus and two “insiders,” now we encounter an “outsider”, someone who’d not just spent three years with Jesus.

Yet, according to Mark, it was for this “outsider,” a blind man who had resorted to begging, that Jesus chose to do his final miracle.

The sad story of religion and politics is one of building walls, who’s in, who’s out.

We construct walls to shut-out the riffraff, to shut-out those we fear, to shut out those we are absolutely sure God does not approve of.

Recent years have witnessed just how much contempt we project upon those we’ve determined that God does not love.

Both sides of the so-called culture war feel a license to project their pent-up anger onto the other side.

We’re sure that we’re the ones on good terms with God, so we should be wary of those Evangelicals, those liberals, those Trump supporters, those gays, those undocumented immigrants … everyone’s got a list.

That’s just another way of bringing our agenda to Jesus, just like James and John had done … make me feel secure and in control by blessing the wall I’ve built that puts me on the inside with God’s other good guys.

I admit that sometimes I am baffled that when I peek over the wall at the riffraff that I come face to face with Jesus looking back at me.

It’s like a spiritual “Where’s Waldo?”

So, this riffraff named Bartimaeus calls-out to Jesus as he approaches: (v. 47) Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

Bartimaeus had situated himself on a busy road that pilgrims traveling to the Passover celebrations in Jerusalem would travel.

At first, the crowd “sh’d” the beggar, maybe trying to protect the important rabbi from being bothered by a panhandler.

We would expect that if a beggar heard that a popular rabbi was passing by that, quite naturally, he’d ask for money.

A rabbi might be an easy touch, especially with a big crowd there to watch.

But instead of his short-term agenda, he surrendered to Jesus – “Have mercy on me” is a way of saying, “You take charge, you see the big picture, you understand what’s best.”

You see, to call-out for mercy is to realize that you need much more than a leg up on your enemy or a boost toward making your dreams come true.

To call-out for mercy is to realize that you need something that can only come from God.

To call-out for mercy is to surrender to God, to own-up that our dreams and impulses have not always served you so well.

But first, the good citizens of Jericho try to hush the blind beggar.

They don’t want the celebrity rabbi to be bothered, and certainly, it wouldn’t be good for tourism for all the Passover pilgrims to be exposed to the homeless issues in their town.

But even as he was leaving town, and over the ruckus of the travelers and animals, Jesus heard the cry of the blind man calling for mercy.

Look at his response – it is an incredible line of scripture.

Mark 10:49 Jesus stopped….

Here is the Son of God just hours from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and all that will follow … but one blind beggar surrenders his will to God and Jesus stops the whole procession.

Might this be an encouragement to check our own busyness and stop when we see someone in need?

Then in verse 50, something truly amazing happens.

Mark 10:49b-50 So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”  Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

Most beggars’ cloaks were wrapped around them to form a cloth basket in their lap to catch all of the coins tossed their way.

So, imagine the scene as Bartimaeus sprang to his feet throwing off his coat, coins flying through the air and scattering over the ground.

He called for mercy and then without hesitation, abandoned his money or possessions when Jesus is called.

And what did Jesus ask him?

Well, it was the very same question – word for word – he had just asked John and James.

Mark 10:51 What do you want me to do for you?”

Then the passage continues, vs. 51b-52 The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the way.

The miracle of restoring vision is more than physical sight, and with his new vision Bartimaeus is so transformed that he left his hometown and family and followed Jesus.

A new way of seeing … that is faith.

Christian faith is often presented as a package of Christian doctrines you have to swallow.

Well, doctrines may give us road signs for our faith journey, and doctrines can give us ways to try to get our heads around the mysteries of God.

But faith is simply a way of seeing.

Vivienne has always been active in church – but for most of her life those churches were conservative and rigid.

As she struggled with loving church and worship while not accepting much of their teaching, she prayed to God about what to do.

The answer she heard was, “Don’t worry about it … worship me, love me and live with that love.”

At other times we confuse faith with emotion … but, let’s face it, emotions come and go.

Just feeling elated after an inspiring block of praise music – as important as that is – is not a test of faith.

Anyway, sometimes our emotions even lie to us.

Have you ever met someone and your emotions said, “This is the one, this is Mr. Right”, only to later realize that you just found Mr. Wrong again?

But faith is with us both during the highs and the lows of life because it is a way of seeing that the Savior is with us through every season of life.

Often, faith is an act of the will, a choice to look for how the Savior is with you even when you don’t feel it.

During the past couple of years, I’ve had to choose to remember that God is with us despite the pandemic and all the ways it has been worsened because of nonsensical choices people have made – especially the politicizing of what is a simple microbe doing what microbes do.

I’ve had to choose to see that Jesus loves people spouting politics contrary to everything I believe – that Jesus loves them every bit as much as he loves me.

I’ve had to choose to believe that Jesus will bring something good beyond what I can see – and that I am called to follow his lead despite my frustrations and fears.

Mark 10:52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the way.

That is also what faith is – a decision to follow the Savior “on the way” wherever he leads.

Walking with our Savior means that we trust that things will work-out, (maybe in ways we did not imagine) but that in the meantime he has important things for us to do, he has a deep character for us to build, and he has a wonderful life for us to enjoy along the way … not just when things meet our expectations, but in the midst of real life.

Most of the time we will not know, any more than did Bartimaeus, where Jesus is leading – which is what it means to rely on the mercy of God.

Once you do that – then you are discovering a peace and joy of living no matter what is happening in the world around you.

Bartimaeus could have begged for a few coins from the passing rabbi, but in the end, he would have been left with a life of disappointment and complaint.

It’s your choice … stay stuck, beg for a few hand-outs, or ask for the vision of faith.

Ultimately, that moment of choice is between a life stuck in complaint, and a journey with Jesus in a life of purpose, trust and gratitude.