Jesus Heals The Blind Beggar

Passage: Mark 10:46-52

What do you want me to do for you?

I don’t know if you have any idea how many questions Jesus asks in the Gospels? If you work your way through all four books you’ll find over 100 questions asked of all kinds of people in all kinds of situations.

Some of the questions reveal something about the people Jesus is asking them of
– in Mark 9 Jesus asks the disciples “What were you discussing on the road?” knowing full well that they were arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest. Some of Jesus’ questions make people angry

– in John 10 Jesus is facing an angry mob intent on killing him. You’d think that at this point he’d be wanting to diffuse the situation, to calm things down but instead he says “I have shown you many good works from the Father.” And then asks a question which is guaranteed to make them even more angry: “For which of these are you stoning me?”

Some are thought provoking, in Matthew 16 Jesus asks the disciples “Who do you think I am?”.

Some of Jesus’ questions are really challenging – In Luke Jesus says “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I ask you?”

Jesus is pretty good at asking the right question at the right time. Which is what makes the question in todays passage seem so odd.

What do you want me to do for you?

It seems like a strange question to ask. Jesus has a reputation as a healer and there is a blind man stood right in front of him asking for help. What does Jesus think the man wants?

Actually I think Jesus was very aware of what the man wanted.

Bartimaeus, Mark tells us, was a beggar. This was not uncommon for someone who was born blind in Jesus’ time. He would have had limited opportunities in life. He would, most probably, have never had a job, or a home of his own. His social status would have been pretty low.

I imagine he was used to being ignored, passed by. I guess that in the same way that we sometimes allow homeless people and big issue sellers to blend into the background in our own city, people had grown so used to seeing him by the side of the road that, in fact, they no longer really acknowledged him and didn’t give him a second thought.

What do you want me to do for you?

I imagine that Bartimaeus wants a few things. Firstly I imagine he wants to be heard, to be acknowledged by someone. When he initially hears that Jesus is nearby he kicks up a serious fuss. He is making so much of a scene that it makes the people around him uncomfortable and they try to shush him. They assume that he isn’t important enough, significant enough for Jesus to want to see him. But the negative response of the crowd does not put him off. He shouts all the more. He wants an audience with Jesus. What the crowd don’t see coming is that Jesus wants an audience with him. Despite his low status, despite the fact that Jesus is headed to Jerusalem, to his crucifixion he takes the time to stop and as Bartimaeus one, very simple, but extremely important question.

What do you want me to do for you?

Bartimaeus is ready for this question. Four words. I want to see. Bartimaeus wants his sight. Not just because it would be nice to be able to see but because for Bartimaeus to be able to see meant to be accepted. To be able to stop begging and make his own way in life; to be seen as a real person.

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

The last line of this passage seems almost a throw away one. But it is actually really important. It doesn’t say what you might expect it to say. If we think back to what sight meant to Bartimaeus it is probably a surprise that it doesn’t say “Immediately he received his sight, got a job, a house and some friends and lived happily ever after.”

Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus…

Bartimaeus didn’t have to follow Jesus. in fact Jesus never even asks him to. He says “Go, your faith has healed you” not “Your faith has healed you, now follow me”.

The first thing Bartimaeus does with the life changing gift of sight that Jesus has given him is not to meet his own needs. The first reaction of the man who once was blind but now can see is to follow Jesus. Some commentators suggest that the fact that we know Bartimaeus’ name suggests that he was known personally by the early church, that he remained a part of their community; a follower of Jesus.

The question that Jesus asks us this morning is the same one that he asks Bartimaeus in Mark 10:

What do you want me to do for you?

Wherever you are at, whatever you are facing and regardless of whether or not you feel like you are the sort of person he would want to associate with Jesus is both interested and able. We don’t need to come to him with long, carefully worded prayers but simply and honestly as Bartimaeus did.

The bible scholar Tom Wright sums it up perfectly: “Don’t look back at the small, selfish comforts of victimhood. Ask for freedom, ask for salvation. And when you get it, be prepared to follow Jesus wherever he goes next.”

The Prayer Stations that followed this talk were:

Jesus heals the blind beggar – Thankful
Jesus heals the blind beggar – Questions
Jesus heals the blind beggar – What do you want me to do for you?