In Mark 10 Jesus and His disciples landed in a place called Jericho. Right off that bat that’s super interesting because back in the Old Testament book of Joshua Jericho was the location of a giant city that the Nation of Israel needed to capture on their way to obtaining the Promised Land of Canaan. The problem, though, was that the city was bigger than anyone had ever seen and was surrounded by a wall that was impenetrable . On top of that Jericho had lots of soldiers who had lots of weapons and all of that seemed to add up to a sure loss for the Nation of Israel.
As the story goes, though, God told Joshua and his troops to march around the city and when they did the walls fell down and Israel took control of the land.
And so in Mark 10 Jesus and His disciples arrive in Jericho, the very place where fear had once overtaken the Jews, the very place where God had dispelled those fears by performing an unthinkable miracle on behalf of his people - the walls of a gigantic city came crashing down and their future entrance into the Promised Land became clearer and clearer.
This is important background, I think, because in Mark 10 Jesus and His disciples arrive in this same Jericho and encounter a blind man named Bartimaeus who began to shout for help when he heard that Jesus was near.
“JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!”, he shouted. Mark says that people told him to be quiet and to stop making such a scene because Jesus was busy and had important things to do, but he cried out all the more - “HELP! HAVE MERCY! HEY JESUS, OVER HERE!”
Maybe it’s a stretch to say this, but I think the parallel is pretty clear - as was true for the Jews hundreds of years earlier, Bartimaeus had walls up in front of his eyes that were keeping him from seeing the future.
Those scales in front of his eyes were impenetrable, they created a deep sense of hopelessness, and there was nothing he could do to break through them.
“I’ll always be like this.”
“There’s nothing I can do.”
“There’s nothing anyone can do.”
“All of my days from here on out will be the same.”
... He needed an unthinkable miracle.
And I think that Mark is sure to tell us that this story takes places in Jericho because he wants the story of Joshua and the walls falling down in Jericho to be playing in the background of our minds as Jesus encounters this blind man who is looking for a miracle of his own because Mark wants us to know and anticipate that an unthinkable miracle is coming.
Yes - just as walls fell down for the Israelites some hundreds of years earlier, so walls were about to fall down for this lone Israelite some hundreds of years later.
Mark says that Jesus heard Bartimaeus cry and asked someone to bring him to Him. When Bartimaeus arrived Jesus looked at him and said, “what do you want me to do for you?”
Silly question , right?
“Ummm, I’d love a vacation to the Caribbean.”
“I’d love a hamburger.”
“I’d like a million dollars.”
DUH, Jesus - “I want to see!”, he says. I have walls up in front of my eyes. I can’t break through them. Like our ancestors from many years ago, my situation seems hopeless. The future seems bleak. I sit here day and night begging for money, begging for help; I just can’t do it anymore - I want to see!
“Immediately”, Mark says, “he regained his sight and followed Him on the way.”
There’s lots to talk about here, but for now I want to zero in on the question that Jesus asked Bartimaeus because, really, it’s an odd question, right? “What do you want me to do for you?”
Why did He ask that?
What was the point?
Why did He make Bartimaeus voice what he wanted, what he needed from Jesus?
One of the things we need to realize is that Mark places this question from Bartimaeus shortly after he tells the story of Jesus asking the very SAME question to His disciples a few verses earlier.
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In verse 36 Jesus asked to His disciples, “what do you want me to do for you?”
And then in verse 51 He asked Bartimaeus, “what do you want me to do for you?”
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating. In seminary I had a professor who said that whenever you see a word or a phrase or a question of some sort repeated in the Bible once or twice or 10 times within a few pages of each other that’s because the writer of that story or that book wants the reader to pick up on something deeper that he’s trying to get across beneath the surface.
And so when I read Jesus asking the disciples in verse 36, “what do you want me to do for you” and then repeating that same question to Bartimaeus 16 verses later it makes me think that Mark’s Jesus is not only positioning that question to the disciples and to Bartimaeus, but He’s also posing that same question to the reader:
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Remember, Mark’s original readers were reading these stories in the wake of a tragedy, right? That’s super important. Remember all the way back our very first post on Mark, we talked about how Mark’s readers just saw their friends and family members brutally murdered in the streets by Emperor Nero.
Blood was shed.
Lives were lost.
Nothing would ever be the same.
“What do you want Jesus to do for you”, Mark is asking his readers. “What do you need from Him this day?”
Now, in verse 37 the disciples responded and said, “let one of us sit on your right hand and the other on the left when you enter into your glory.”
In other words ...
We want power.
We want authority.
We want fame.
We want glory.
We want the perfect life.
We’ve followed you around for a long time, we’ve helped you on your mission. We’ve put ourselves out there for you. Now we want a slice of the pie.
Bartimateus, however, simply responded and said, “I want to see.”
And so I think Mark included Jesus’ question to the disciples and his question to Bartimaeus because he wants his readers to know that those are the 2 options they had in terms of how to respond to Jesus’ question:
ONE - I want you to fix this mess. I want you to destroy our enemies. I want you to help us raise up an army. We want glory. We want revenge. We want to repay the Romans and Nero for what was done to us. We want to sit next to you in your Kingdom!
TWO - I want to see. Life is hard right now. Friends and family members have been slain in the streets. Blood is everywhere. We are lost. Confused. Broken. Angry. Bitter. You said you’d be here, but there are scales in front of our eyes. Walls in front of our eyes that are blocking our sight of you - walls the size of those old Jericho walls. Impenetrable walls. Would you please - give us the ability to see where you are, what you’re doing, how we should respond. Take down these walls so that we can see.
In essence Mark was saying ...
Jesus asked the disciples what they wanted Him to do for them and they said they wanted power and glory and fame.
He asked Bartimaeus the same question and he said that he wanted to be able to see.
He’s asking you the same thing, so which response will be yours? Fame and glory and power? Or the ability to see as God sees?
I tell you all of that because I think if Mark were sitting here with us today knowing the problems and worries and concerns of our times and our lives, I think he would tell us that we can respond in one of those same two ways:
We can either ask Jesus to fix it all and make it better and pad our lives with ease, with money, with nice jobs, good health, etc, etc, etc.
We can ask Him to give us the ability to see so that no matter what the circumstances are and no matter what the problems are and no matter what Nero’s are running wild in the streets of our lives causing havoc and problems and bloodshed, we will be able to see as God sees and know beyond a doubt where He is, what He’s doing, and how He’s directing our next steps.
“Lord, I want to see.” Make it your prayer today.