Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent for the Wounded, Week Three: What Do You Want Me to Do for You?


Jesus was walking on the road, leaving the city of Jericho, with His disciples and a hefty entourage. The book of Mark chapter 10 and verses 46 - 53 tells the story.

On that road a blind man named Bartimaeus was sitting, begging. On this particular day he must have sensed the stir of energy in the air; he asked someone who was coming. "Jesus of Nazareth," he was told.

Bartimaeus had heard of Jesus - there had been another blind man healed by Him on this same road. He had one chance, and he was going to take it.

"Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!" he called out. 

Jesus was in the middle of talking to the people surrounding Him. For the last little while He had been trying to teach them what was important as He started to turn His focus from His ministry on earth to His death. 

He had met with the rich young ruler, who confidently proclaimed that from his youth he had not broken one of the commandments; but who baulked at giving away his money and possessions and following Jesus wholeheartedly.

He had addressed Peter's claim that they had given up everything to follow Him.

He had had to speak to James and John, who had asked for positions on His left and right in the new kingdom He had been talking about.

He had once again made short shrift of the Pharisees, who had again sought to trap Him, this time on the contentious issue of divorce.

And He had made time for the children who had been brought to Him. He hugged them and blessed them, speaking sternly to those who would have told the parents to take them away - children should be seen and not heard, don't you know? - "for of such is the kingdom of heaven!"

Once again the people tried to shush the disturber; all that did was make Bartimaeus shout louder, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Jesus stopped. "Bring him to me," He said.

The people now turned to Bartimaeus: "Take heart - He's calling you! Get up!"

Bartimaeus didn't have much in this world. He probably had a beggar's bowl; and he had a cloak, to protect him from the elements. Upon hearing these words, he sprang to his feet and, casting his cloak aside, he approached Jesus. The beggar's bowl was forgotten - Bart was that sure he wouldn't be needing it any more.

"What do you want me to do for you?" asked Jesus of this obviously blind man. 

The rich young ruler might have toyed with the idea of asking for a little more wealth.

James and John might have asked for titles to go along with their desired positions.

Peter might have asked what was in it for him because of everything he had given up.

The Pharisees would have snorted that there was nothing He could do for them, except go away.

The kids would have wanted to play one more game.

Bartimaeus could have asked for enough money to keep him in comfort for the rest of his life. He could have asked, Why me?

He could even have said, "Isn't it obvious?" - as no doubt the crowd was saying. "Duh!" I can hear them murmuring to one another, rolling their eyes.

"Lord, that I might receive my sight," he said simply, humbly. Asked and answered.

The thing I love about this man is his visceral response to Jesus. When he heard Jesus was on the road, he yelled out. When the messengers told him Jesus was calling him over, he threw aside the only security and protection he had - his cloak - and went to Him. And now, when he was asked what he wanted Jesus to do for him, he didn't say, "Give me my sight!" Rather, he said, "That I might receive my sight." He was a confident man, but he was humble. There was no hint of demand in his words; his confidence was in the Man addressing him. Bart didn't know how it could be done. He just knew it could be done.

Jesus didn't touch Bartimaeus's face; He didn't spit on the dusty ground to make a clay and place it on the man's eye sockets. He merely said, "Go your way; your faith has made you whole."

And that was that. Bartimaeus could see. 

The next step was so obvious to him that words were unnecessary. This simple, smart, direct man had heard Jesus tell him to go his way. Now that his sight was restored, Bartimaeus saw that clearly his way was where Jesus was going: "He followed Jesus in the way," Mark tells us. He was untrammeled by possessions, by past history, by expectations. All he needed to follow Jesus was to see Jesus Himself.

The thing that draws me to this story, to this question, at Christmas is the question itself. For one thing, Jesus knows everything, doesn't He. He knew what Bartimaeus needed; well, everyone did. Why did He ask him the question?

I have mulled over this for a couple of months now. I believe that Jesus wanted Bartimaeus to articulate his need, not for Jesus' benefit but for his own. And He would ask us the same question today: What do you want me to do for you? Sometimes just hearing our own voice say the words can bring our problem into focus, can help ease the burden. "Lord, that I might ..."

... find work ...

... be protected on the roads ...

... ensure my children are safe ...

... have enough strength for the day ...

... keep my fears in check ...

... understand why my husband took his life ...

... get through Christmas for the first time without my son ...

... not feel so alone ...

There was a reason Bartimaeus was on that road that day. And there is a reason each one of us is on the road we are on. Jesus is coming: He is walking down our road, walking in our direction. We might not be able to see Him yet. We might not have the specific words yet to speak the deepest needs of our hearts and souls.

On that first Christmas He came to us, God made flesh, to bring us to God. The candle we lit last Sunday - the rose coloured candle - represents joy. God with us

Thirty-odd years later He was coming toward Bartimaeus. He was going to be with him and change his life.

And today, as He approaches us, all we have to do is summon the strength and the courage to cry out, "Have mercy on me!"

He will stop. And even if we can't see Him, He will be looking at us. Quietly He will say, not for the benefit of the crowd but just to us, "What do you want me to do for you?"

What will we answer?


  1. I've thought of that question so often, Karyn...I think the only answer that I've come up with that makes sense is "just please fix me".

    1. I think those four little words - words any child can use - are so profound, Brenda. I've been thinking about them all week. It's coming to God with the faith of a little child.

      Unlike that child, however, I always seem to want a hand in the remedy; how does one overcome THAT tendency? How does one simply sit and be with Him if the fix isn't as instantaneous as Bartimaeus's?


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