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Mark 10:32-52: Two Responses to the Same Question Print E-mail
Sunday, 28 October 2007

How would you answer this question from Jesus: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’  You might ask to be blessed.  You might ask for world peace.  You might ask for certain people to be saved.  If you were having a hard week, you might ask to make it through.  If you were having trouble in relationships, you might ask for resolution.  If you were struggling financially (or if you were just greedy), you might ask for more money and more stuff.  If you are honest with yourself, what would you ask for?

You may have noticed that Jesus actually asks this question twice in our passage this morning.  In verse 36, He asks James and John this question when they come to Him.  Likewise, in verse 51, He asks the blind man the same question.  As we look at the text together this morning, I want to consider how this question is answered.  Doing this will hopefully help us in knowing how we should appropriately answer the question of Jesus: what do you want me to do for you?  Let’s consider the two answers given in the text.

First, ‘We want to sit at your right and left hand in your glory’ (v. 37).

This is the answer that James and John give in verse 37.  Look at that verse with me.  After Jesus once again predicts His suffering (which we will look at in a moment), James and John approach Jesus and ask Him to do whatever they ask.  For the third time, the disciples fail to understand what Jesus is saying about His future death and resurrection.  Peter rebuked Him in 8:33.  The group is worried about who is the greatest in 9:33-34.  And here, James and John, the other two of the inner three, come and ask to be seated in the place of prominence when Jesus reigns in His glory.  They want to be esteemed.  They want to be recognized.  They want their share of Jesus’ glory.  They answer Jesus’ question of what do you want me to do for you with a request for high status, motivated by their pride.

Jesus’ response to their request can be summarized with three statements.  First, He says to them: what you ask will require great suffering.  Look at verses 38-39.  What does Jesus mean by the imagery of the cup and baptism?  In the present context, Jesus is telling them that in order to be like Him and share in His glory, they must be willing to suffer like He will suffer.  Look again at His prediction in verses 32-34.  Jesus knows that He is going to die.  He knows that the Jewish religious leaders will arrest Him and turn Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, spit on, flogged, and killed.  He knows the difficulty that awaits Him in Jerusalem.  Yet, Mark tells us that He led the group in their march to the city.  He was prepared to suffer and die and to be raised again.  Thus, what He is saying to James and John is that their request to be like Him in His glory is a request to follow Him in His sufferings.  Not that they will be crucified for the sins of others, but they will suffer, for all who follow after Christ must suffer (see Acts 14:22, 2 Timothy 3:12). 

It is hard to know exactly why the two respond as they do in verse 39, but Jesus recognizes (even if they do not), that they will indeed share in His sufferings.  We are told that James was martyred (see Acts 12:2) and that John was exiled (see Revelation 1:9).  It is possible that they still thought that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to overthrow Rome and set up His Kingdom there.  Little did they know, or at least little did they understand, that He was going to die and that those on His right and left in His glory would actually be criminals who would die as well.  They seemingly did not understand that their request was a request for suffering, but Jesus corrects them.

Second, in response to their request He says to them: what you ask is not mine to grant.  Look at verse 40.  Jesus recognizes the authority of the Father and His plan.  This is not Jesus claiming not to be God, or part of the God-Head.  Rather, He reveals that He is faithfully submitting Himself to the plan of the Father.  We see throughout His life and ministry and ultimately through His death on the cross.

Third, Jesus says to them: what you ask (and how the others respond) reveals your lack of understanding.  Look at verse 41.  The other disciples are angry that James and John have asked Jesus for a place of prominence.  Is this righteous indignation on their part?  Not according to what Jesus says next.  Look at verses 42-44.  Once again Jesus tells them that are looking at things upside down.  They think leadership in the Kingdom will be like the leadership they see in the world.  They think it will be about power and authority.  Jesus corrects them by telling them that leadership in the Kingdom is about service.  The positions of greatness in the Kingdom are not held by Kings and Warlords, but by servants and slaves.  He drives this truth home in verse 45.  Look at that with me.  If Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, came to serve us by giving His life as a ransom for our sin on the cross, then why would any of His disciples think that we would not be called to serve in such a way as well. 

It is this principle of discipleship that Jesus has been emphasizing over and over again.  We must realize that if we are going to follow Jesus it will cost us.  Suffering for the sake of the gospel is not simply for the religious elite.  It is not just for those radical Christians.  No, embracing suffering and persecution is required of all who will follow after Jesus.  Yet, we should be encouraged by the fact that Jesus has suffered for us first.  We said last week that even though the gospel will cost us much, we will never out-give Jesus.  In the same way, in light of verse 45, we can say it this way: we will never out-suffer or out-serve Jesus either.  In the midst of our darkest hour of persecution and suffering we must look confidently to Calvary, where the King has gone before us.  As His disciples we can be certain that He will never call us to suffer more than He did there.

What is the second response to Jesus’ question: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’

Second, ‘I want to see’ (v. 51).

Mark tells us the story of blind Bartimaeus in verses 46-52.  The road to Jerusalem leads through the city of Jericho.  As Jesus is leaving the city, Mark tells us that Baritmaeus is crying out: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!  As we have seen before in Mark’s Gospel, Bartimaeus is desperate for Jesus to help him.  Even when those around Jesus tell him to be quiet, he refuses and continues to cry out for mercy.  Jesus calls out to Bartimaeus and when he arrives, Jesus asks him the same question that He asked James and John.  Look at how Bartimaeus responds in verse 51.  Bartimaeus simply wants to see.  In his desperation, he asks Jesus to heal his blindness.  If James and John were motivated by their pride, it seems that Bartimaeus is motivated by the fact that he has nowhere else to go.  They ask for glorious privilege, while he asks for what they take for granted.  They ask for great recognition, while he asks to simply be able to recognize others through the recovery of his vision.  He simply asks the Messiah: ‘I want to see.’

Notice how Jesus responds in verse 52.  Jesus tells Baritmaeus that his faith has made him well.  Mark follows this by telling us how Bartimaeus used his newfound gift of vision: And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.  Jesus heals him and Bartimaeus abandons all to follow Him.  Seemingly the fact that Mark gives us his name tells us that his readers and other followers of Christ would have been familiar with who he was.  Bartimaeus not only recovered his sight that day outside of Jericho, but he became a follower of Jesus Christ. 

Why would Mark include this story at this point?  This whole section (8:22-10:52) has focused on being follower of Jesus.  Mark began it with the story of the gradual healing of the blind man at Bethsaida.  He now concludes with the healing of Bartimaeus.  Although we should not ignore the miracle of the healings, as we have noted, we need to also recognize the spiritual implications.  Jesus has continually been revealing to the disciples what it means to follow Him.  Like the man at Bethsaida, they continue to struggle in understanding all that He is teaching them.  They cannot get it through their heads that the Messiah came to suffer and die at the hands of evil men.  They cannot grasp that the Son of David, the true King of Israel, has come to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.  And they cannot come to grips with the truth that following Him means suffering as slaves and servants of all.  They, too, even though they do not seem to realize it, are desperate to see so that they can follow Jesus on the way. 

As we come to the end of this section that deals particularly with being a disciple of Christ, let me offer just two applications from our text in particular and from the whole section in general.  First, you cannot follow Jesus if you are not willing to suffer as slaves and servants.  This is not optional.  In speaking about the necessity of suffering for the Christian, Cole writes: “Those who follow Jesus cannot haggle at terms; there are not two levels of Christian discipleship, but only one.”   Either you accept the terms of suffering and persecution as a follower of Christ, or you do not follow Him.  There is no other option.  Again and again, Jesus has called His disciples (and us) to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.  Will you heed that call?

Second, you cannot follow Jesus without being healed of your spiritual blindness through the gift of faith.  Everything in us cries out against what Jesus is teaching here.  Like Peter and the others, we do not want Him to die.  We do not want to suffer.  We do not want to receive the humble and be humiliated in the process.  We do not want to give away all our stuff to be used for the service of others.  We do not want to be slaves or servants.  We do not have eyes to behold the good and the glory in all of this.  Like Bartimaeus we are desperate to recover our sight.  Thus, may our answer to Jesus’ question what do you want me to do for you be similar to his:  Lord, I want to see.  I want to see that only suffering leads to you.  I want to see that only by giving all away will I be able to gain blessings in this life and treasure in heaven.  I want to see that only the humble will be exalted, only the slaves will be free, and only the crucified will live.  O Lord, I want to see.  Amen.     

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 07 November 2007 )

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