TITLE: Jesus asks: What do you want me to do for you?
SCRIPTURE: Mark 10:46-52
Mark’s chapters contain two stories about the healing of blind men (8:22-26 and 10:46-52). In the context of these two stories, Jesus is traveling with the disciples, on his way to Jerusalem. Now, while this journey, Jesus tells the disciples three times about his upcoming death (8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34). However, the disciples respond to each of these predictions in an inappropriate manner; demonstrating that they have completely missed the point.
This Gospel presents us with two stories of blind men who gain their sight. Sandwiched between these two stories are a series of stories about disciples who are spiritually blind. This is especially true of Peter, James, & John. Their blindness seems even more profound than that of the rest of the disciples.
The story of Bartimaeus is the last healing miracle of this Gospel and ends chapter 10. Chapter 11 introduces Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (11:1).
I would like you to use your mind’s eye to imagine yourself in this situation I am about to describe to you. Imagine that you committed no crime, yet you are sentenced to be burned at the stake. The time of execution has come. You are now being led to the wood pile. As you are being led toward this wood pile, what would you be thinking about?
Just as you are about to ascend the pile, you hear a desperate, pitiful cry for "Help!" How would you respond?
-- I think that I would check to see if the guards might be so distracted by this pitiful desperate cry that I might be able to make my escape.
-- Or I might say to the guards, "You wait right here, fellows! I will be right back; gotta see if I can lend a hand!"
-- I seriously doubt that my first and foremost thoughts would be for that person desperately and pitifully needing help. I tend to think my attitude would be more one of "You've got your problem; I've got mine, want to trade?"
We have a story with putting Jesus in a similar situation like that in our Gospel lesson today. Mark has been telling us for some time now, as well as the disciples, that Jesus is "on the way." The question is, on the way where? On the way to Jerusalem! On the way to the cross! On the way to his death!
Jesus is in Jericho -- near the end of his journey -- a day's walk from the Holy City -- less than a week from the cross. I think that most of us, in such a situation, would be scared -- scared and self-absorbed. Whatever else we might think or do along the way, I doubt that we would be concerned about a beggar alongside the road.
But Jesus isn’t like most of us. He has been "on the way" for a while now, and he has been helping people all along the way. He takes time to help a woman with a bleeding disorder. He helps a man possessed with a demon. He helps a woman whose daughter was sick. He helps a blind man at Bethsaida and a little boy.
Now, just one day from the end of his journey, Jesus hears a blind man cry out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy one me!" The crowd, gathered to see Jesus, tries to silence Bartimaeus, but he won't be silenced. He calls out again, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me."
This blind beggar is about as much of a "nobody from nowhere" that he can be. He is sitting in the dirt on the side of the road. His cloak spread out in front him to catch whatever coins that might be tossed his way by the people that pass by. We could certainly understand and excuse Jesus for thinking that he had more important things to worry about. Instead, He stopped, stood still, stopped in his tracks at the cry of this nobody, nowhere man.
When Jesus stopped, you can be sure that his disciples stopped too. The whole crowd stopped. Everyone stopped for this nobody from nowhere. Notice what Jesus does next! I would think that the easiest thing to do would be to heal the man and move on. But Jesus doesn’t think like me. That is not what Jesus does. The crowd is still trying to silence this man, trying to force him back into the shadows, trying to keep the party going. So Jesus turns his attention, not to the blind man, but to the crowd. "Call him here," he commands.
Because, you see, Jesus wants to do more than to merely give this blind beggar his sight. He wants to give the crowd their sight as well. He wants the crowd to see this blind man for what he is. And that is not just a nobody from nowhere, but potentially a VIP in the kingdom of God.
So Jesus' first action is to convert the crowd. They have been trying to stifle this man, but Jesus tells them to help him. "Call him here," he commands. Jesus takes the crowd's stiff arms, outstretched, pushing the man away and turns them into helping hands, reaching out to embrace. He has the crowd bring the man from the dirt pile on side of the road to center stage -- into the spotlight. It is probably the first time in many years that anyone has ever paid any attention to this blind beggar.
And then, having stopped the crowd and having them put this man in the spotlight, Jesus does one more thing to give the blind man dignity. He asks him a question -- "What do you want me to do for you?"
So often, when we are faced with a problem person, we are tempted to see only the problem and not the person. Jesus always sees the person. He asks this person a question -- asks how he can help -- asks what the man wants, instead of telling him what he needs. It is a little thing -- like holding the door for someone -- or saying thank you -- or sending a Get Well card -- just a little gesture that confers dignity on this nobody from nowhere.
"What do you want me to do for you?" A little earlier, Jesus asked this same question of James and John -- two of his disciples. They asked for high office -- fame and fortune. They wanted power. They wanted people to look up to them.
This blind man is quite different. He does not ask to be superhuman, but only to be fully human -- not to be special, but just ordinary. He says, "Rabbouni, let me see again." It is interesting to not that we find this word, Rabbouni, only one other time in the Bible -- when Mary finally recognizes the risen Lord at the tomb. It is a term of great, endearing respect.
Jesus responds by saying, "Go; your faith has made you well." And Mark tells us, "Immediately, (the blind man) regained his sight and followed (Jesus) on the way." Let me repeat that. He immediately regained his sight and he immediately followed
Jesus on the way.
At the beginning of this story, the man was sitting in the dirt along the way. Now he joins Jesus on the way. Quite a transformation, don't you think!
Jesus does that for us. He transforms our lives, if we will let him. He takes small people -- broken people -- wounded people -- lonely people -- and he makes them whole. He often finds it difficult to help rich people -- proud people. After all, how can you help someone who doesn't think he or she needs help?
But Jesus comes to us when we are down -- when we are broken -- when we need help and need it desperately -- and he helps us. Jesus does his best work with fixer-uppers -- rehabs -- broken lives. The truth is that we all need help. Every day, Jesus makes purses out of sows' ears. He can do that for us.
The late Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen, visited Peru a few years before his death. There he worked among desperately poor people who inspired him by their faith -- their generosity -- their kindness. In his book, Gracias! A Latin American Journal, Nouwen tells of Roldolfo Quiroga. Roldolfo was one of nine children, five of whom died as infants.
Then when Roldolfo was eight years old, a neighbor boy -- a teenager with sadistic tendencies -- got his hands on a pistol and killed Roldolfo's brother. Roldolfo's parents nearly went out of their minds with grief. His father stalked around the house, muttering wildly of revenge.
But then, realizing that his wife and children still needed his help, Roldolfo's father saw that he also needed help. A lifelong atheist, he realized that only God could save him from his hatred and despair. He invited Christ to help him, and Christ transformed his life. He and his family started going to church. They were baptized. The father became a man of prayer -- a man to whom neighbors could turn for help -- a man known for his kind heart. Christ took this man in his brokenness and made him whole.
Jesus did that for blind Bartimaeus. He did it for Roldolfo's father. He has done that for countless broken people through the centuries -- and he will do that for countless broken people around the world today.
Today! He will come into lives broken by poverty -- or illness -- or hatred -- or despair -- or drugs -- or aimlessness -- or failure ---- and he will make them whole -- will transform them from nobodies to somebodies.
Today! At his invitation, people will get up out of the ditch along the way and begin to follow Jesus along the way. Today! In cities and towns and villages all across the world, Jesus will take hopeless people -- broken people -- lonely people -- sinful people ---- and make them whole.
Today! He asks you now, "What do you want me to do for you?" Don't respond like James and John, who asked to become rich and famous. Respond like the blind man, who said, "Rabbouni, let me see again. Take away my infirmity -- my brokenness -- my loneliness -- my sinfulness ---- and make me whole."
And then Jesus will tell you, "Go; your faith has made you well."
Robert A. Sisler