“So, where do you want to eat?” Ugh. I’m one of those people that this is my least favorite question. “I don’t care, wherever you want...But not this place or that place! Anywhere else.”
I find it much easier to have clarity on what I don’t want, than what I actually want most of the time. It’s at least safer that’s for sure. As long as I definitely won’t hate where we end up, I can deal. However the backlog from a lifestyle of making choices that way means: I don’t often feel satisfied with my life, and I rarely find my stomach fully satisfied either.
I didn’t realize until later in my 20s that I have an ingrained habit of taking the path of least resistance when it comes to every decision in my life. Even decisions I am making by myself that will likely only impact me! One of the reasons I’ve discovered I function this way is that, throughout a series of events in my life, I’ve been led to believe that my opinion, preference, or basic human wants weren’t the most important ones in the room. I believed that my needs or wants were not relevant and that if I presented them, I would either inconvenience someone, or wind up dismissed.
This mentality persisted so completely that it framed my prayer and concept of God as well. My prayers were subconsciously strictly gratitude and requests for people around me. I was out of college before it occurred to me that I have things in life that I want, and that Jesus is actually very interested in those things - regardless of what they are.
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
39 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Questions to Consider
- How do the James/John and Baritmaeus approach Jesus differently? What do you notice about their phraising and initial request?
- What’s significant to you about how Jesus asks both of them “What do you want me to do for you?”
- What values lie beneath either of their requests? What does that illustrate about their goals or their hearts?
What I love most about this is passage is that even though Jesus knows all - what they want, what their hearts are behind it, and if their desires are guided by pride or faith - Jesus still asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” To anyone who has been cut off, walked over, or rejected, that is a Holy question. Especially when the One asking that question is perfectly capable of providing every request we could dream of.
He is wise. Too wise to give us every little, or outrageous thing, we ask for. And we are accurate to expect that - however. What astounds me, is that Jesus still asks...What do you want me to do for you? The fact these stories are recorded back to back with nothing in between illustrates to me that Jesus always wants to hear from us what we desire. Selfish or altruistic, humble or proud, holy or not, he wants to hear from us. The question is - for better or worse - do you even know what you want? And if you do (it probably just popped in your mind) have you ever brought it to Jesus? He could do you a miracle! Or he could guide your heart back if your motives have gotten misguided.
One thing from these stories we can be sure of: Jesus wants to hear, in your words, what you want. And you are freely welcome to bring all that you want before Him. And when you do, he will lovingly engage, and continue to draw you closer to him. Seek him in all things, and he will draw near to you.
In this season of lent when many of us are fasting and abstaining from things, have you been talking with God? Without prayer, fasting is just a lame diet. Do you know what you want from God? Do you know what you’re fasting for? What do you want him to do for you these 40 days?