And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
James and John are two of Jesus’ closest friends, and they approach Him with a clear agenda. They say, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35). I wonder if they’re terrified or excited when Jesus responds, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36). When Jesus asks a question, we should take notice. He’s not looking for information; He’s revealing hearts.
“What do you want Me to do for you?” This is a significant question, especially on the lips of the Lord of lords. If we zoom out on Mark 10, this question helps us see the tapestry that Mark is weaving. Let’s walk through this chapter and ask, “What do people want?”
In Mark 10:2, the Pharisees come to talk with Jesus. They’re the religious professionals. Surely they want to know Jesus, right? The text says that they come to test Jesus with a question on divorce. Jesus answers their question, but it turns out they’re more interested in trapping Him than getting an answer. The Pharisees want to be right more than they want to follow Jesus.
In verse 13, people are bringing children to Jesus, and the disciples are with Him. Surely Jesus’s disciples would love children like He does, right? But the disciples rebuke the people for bringing their children to Jesus. Being part of Jesus’ traveling ministry team is a big deal, and there’s no time for children. The disciples want to be important more than they want to follow Jesus.
In verse 17, a rich young man comes up to Jesus. He wants to know what he has to do to inherit eternal life. After a little back and forth, Jesus tells the man that he lacks one thing: He needs to sell all that he has, give to the poor, and come follow Him. The rich man wants to hear from Jesus, but this is simply too much. The rich man wants to be wealthy more than he wants to follow Jesus. He walks away sad.
These people all have an agenda when they come to Jesus. They have eyes, but they can’t see Him. They have ears but they can’t hear Him. They try to squeeze him into their mold. They want to be right and important and wealthy. This is greatness for them, and they hope Jesus can help them get it. Because that’s what they really want.
In the middle of this mess, we see Jesus. If we ask, “What’s important to you, Jesus? What is greatness in Your eyes? What do You want?”, and He answers. In Mark 10:33 Jesus shares His agenda. He is going to Jerusalem to be delivered over to the religious leaders, to be condemned, to suffer, to die, and to rise again.
While people are preoccupied with living their life, Jesus is focused on giving His. The contrast is striking. Then James and John show up with their request…right after Jesus predicts His death. They should know His heart and character, but they’re clueless. This is not “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” This is “My kingdom come, my will be done.” James and John want to be powerful more than they want to follow Jesus. And Jesus gives them the response no one wants to hear when they ask a question: “You do not know what you are asking” (Mark 10:38).
What do we really want? If we’re honest, many times we want to be right, important, wealthy, and powerful more than we want to follow Jesus. We bring these agendas to Jesus expecting him to give us what we want. The Bible has a word for these things that we want more than Jesus: idols. Idols are functional gods that occupy the throne that only the Lord deserves. Our idols fuel agendas that conflict with Jesus’ mission.
Can we relate? “Jesus, I want to follow you, but…I want to be great…I want to win the argument…I want a role that feels important, where my gifts are honored. I want to be financially comfortable.”
In the middle of this mess, we see Jesus. He’s different. He’s not interested in greatness as the world defines it. Everyone is racing to the top, but Jesus is racing to the bottom. Next to the pride of the Pharisees, the disciples, the rich man, James, and John, Mark shows us the humility of Christ. He came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:42-45).
The good news is even more amazing when we consider that Jesus had everything we’re chasing! He was right, but He allowed Himself to be wrong—to become sin—to make us right with Him. He was important, but He laid down His life and died a criminal’s death to lift us up. He was wealthy, but He became poor so that through his poverty we might become rich. And He was powerful, but He handed Himself over to death in order to defeat the powers that hold us in bondage.
Jesus asks piercing questions to reveal what’s in our hearts and to bring His transforming presence to bear on what He finds. He graciously reveals our idols, tears them down, and replaces them with Himself. As the Holy Spirit changes us, being right with God starts to matter more than being right in the argument. Being important as a child of God starts to matter more than being important in ministry. Having riches in Christ starts to matter more than being wealthy in this world. And knowing God’s power at work within us starts to matter more than having power in the world or in the church.
You know who “gets it” in Mark 10? Not the Pharisees. Not the disciples. Not the rich young man. Not James and John.
You know who gets it? Children (Mark 10:13-16). They simply come to Jesus and receive his blessing. They just want Jesus.
You know who gets it? A blind man (Mark 10:46-52). He cries out, even when people rebuke him and try to silence him. He knows he is broken, and he knows who can help. He just wants Jesus.
Children and Bartimaeus. They’re the only ones who leave their agendas behind and come to Jesus. That’s a picture of faith. We bring our helplessness to Jesus, and we trust that He loves us and knows what we need.
When we hear Jesus asking, “What do you want me to do for you?”, how should we respond?
Lord, help us to come to You like children, without pretense. Give us confidence that You will embrace us and grace to rest in the wonder of being Your children.
Lord, help us to come to You like Bartimaeus. Help us to feel our desperation and cry out for Your mercy. Jesus, have mercy on us! Let us recover our sight.
Lord, help us to want You more than we want anyone or anything else. Give us a new affection for You that outshines everything else.
Lord, give us eyes to see. Dying to self is really losing what will never satisfy and gaining YOU, the source of all life and joy. We do believe; help our unbelief!