WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU?
Key Verse 20:32-33
“‘Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. ‘Lord’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’”
It seemed that no matter how often and what Jesus said about his inevitable suffering and death, the disciples weren’t listening. In the last passage we looked at, as soon as Jesus mentioned his upcoming suffering than John and James tried to negotiate with him for top positions in his kingdom. They hadn’t been listening to his words about the Messiah who had to suffer and die and then be raised from the dead. They didn’t understand that the glory of the Savior would come at the high cost of his suffering and death, and not by taking power by force and destroying his enemies. They simply couldn’t understand that Jesus’ glory was spiritual in nature and not worldly. In a sense, they rejected the way of the cross and refused God’s way [the way of humility and servantship], and held on to the way of sinful men.
What Jesus had been telling them all along was something like this: “I must suffer and die to bring you eternal life and the kingdom of God. That’s how I will achieve my glory. Glory doesn’t come cheaply, not even to me! I have to pass through the fires of suffering and death.” Jesus had also been telling them: “In the same way, if you want to gain glory, you have to follow in my footsteps. You need to accept that the way of glory is by self denial and by carrying your own crosses too. My suffering and death will bring you eternal life and the kingdom of God. But it cannot bring you even one ounce of glory, neither will it make you great. For that kind of glory, you have to make a decision to let go of your desires for worldly glory and then come walk with me in the way of humility and servantship. Do as I do! Embrace humility. Strive for what really counts in God’s eyes and not for what the sinful heart desires. Learn to love those who are hard to love, and help those who are helpless, encourage the hopeless, and bear the weak and miserable. That’s what makes you great in God’s eyes and brings you glory. It’s the only kind of glory that counts.” But it’s as if they spaced out for a moment, and then said: “We don’t understand what you’re talking about! We just want to be your second in command. Let us share your glory. We’ve earned it.” It’s amazing that Jesus didn’t reprimand them severely. Instead, once again he helped them understand that he didn’t come to be served but the serve them and to ransom them with his own life.
In this day and age, people still idolize self-love and loathe self-sacrifice. They worship self indulgence and detest self-denial. They glory in self-pride and resent humility and servantship. It’s really hard for people today to comprehend the glory of Jesus who said: [I] did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life! But thank God that in Jesus’ family there are those who understand this truth and truly strive to live by it, because they care little for worldly glory and they really care for the kind of glory Jesus promises.
After Jesus spoke such words to his disciples who seemed to space out on more than one occasion, the whole company reached a suburb of Jerusalem known as Jericho. Look at verse 29. “As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him.” Matthew doesn’t tell us what Jesus did in Jericho before leaving this city. But it’s worth mentioning what Luke says happened there. This is not the same city of Jericho that Joshua destroyed. Many tried to rebuild that Jericho and failed, at the price of their sons’ death, since Joshua put a curse on the city and on those who would dare rebuild it. When all efforts to rebuild it were abandoned, another city was then built at a different location and named Jericho. This new Jericho was now the tax center for all Israel— a city where chief tax collectors squeezed tax money even from other tax collectors, and lived in mansions and in luxury. While he was passing through, Jesus met a man there called Zacchaeus, one of those chief tax collectors, and invited himself to his house. The man used to be a parasite. But when he met Jesus personally, something changed in him! His conscience came alive, and his heart was moved by Jesus’ love for someone like him. So, Zacchaeus repented of his selfish money centered life, and made a decision to follow in Jesus’ footsteps of sacrifice and servantship. Time with Jesus helped him see the truth about the nature of true glory— that glory isn’t in how wealthy or powerful or influential a person may be in this world, but it’s in imitating the Savior’s humility and servantship. He became a hero of faith while the disciples still longed for worldly glory. When Jesus had rescued this man from the pit of hell, he was now ready to leave the city of Jericho.
Look at verses 29-30. “As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’” The apostle Mark mentions only one blind man, while Matthew mentions two. It seems there were actually two blind men rather than one. It could be that Mark who mentioned only one, and by name, wanted to reveal the personal aspect of Jesus’ servantship. Matthew’s focus seems to be more on their persistent prayer. On the outskirts of Jericho, where the rich and mighty lived, there must have been many beggars who hoped that the wealthy might pity their poverty and give them a handout. And these two blind men were sitting there by the roadside as they always did, hoping to be noticed by someone. Matthew doesn’t tell us their names, but we know that one of them was called Bartimaeus, which mean son of Timaeus. (Mark 10:46-52) He had a name but no one called him by his name, but only the son of someone. No one saw him as a real person. They only saw a blind beggar. Whatever his name might have been, he sat there by the roadside with another blind beggar every day with hands outstretched for anyone to notice him. Maybe on most days, he went unnoticed, his cries drowned out by all the other beggars who also asked for alms. I wonder what he thought about as he sat there day after day holding out his hand! I wonder what he felt; what he imagined his life purpose was; what meaning was there to his wretched life! I wonder how confused he might have been at why he was born to such misery! I guess no one knows. But there’s a chance that people like him and his friend would be bitter at God, at people, and at life as a whole.
But it seems that these two blind men weren’t like this at all. They were heroes in the book of life because Jesus recognized them as blessed. How then were they different from all the others who sat by the road side begging? How did they keep themselves free from bitterness and despair? Their words and actions help us understand. Look at what Matthew tells us. “Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’” (30) In those days many heard of Jesus and his teachings as it spread among the people. Many saw and heard Jesus in person. Many even witnessed Jesus’ healing power as he declared the gospel of life from town to town. But it seems that not many had sense to put two and two together. The God of love and grace was working in Jesus right there among them. So they should have heard the voice of God in Jesus. But they had no spiritual sense to recognize him. Now look at these two blind beggars! Although they were miserable and helpless, they had the sense to see what most people don’t see. They were able to do simple math, 2 plus 2 equals four! They heard what Jesus did and said and they thought: “This is the voice of God. This is the promised Savior. This is the one who came to bless and to forgive and to heal— to raise us up from the misery of our lives. It doesn’t matter that people think we’re cursed and abandoned by God. From what we know about Jesus, that’s a lie. I, we are precious to God, and this is the day he visits us and makes us well.”
Many heard and saw, and many were too blind to recognize the Messiah. These two blind men, however, were among the few who could see the Messiah and welcome him into their hearts. So they shouted “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” It was the expression of their faith— that Jesus was the Lord Son of God— that Jesus loved them enough to heal them. It was also their prayer— that Jesus would hear their prayer above all the noises in the world. They had spiritual sense too— something many don’t have even today, in spite of their intellect and achievements and everything else that makes them superior! They know about Jesus. They heard about Jesus’ teaching. But they haven’t yet figured out that Jesus is the only One who can save them from their sins and bring them peace.
But these blind beggars did! So, they shouted: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” But look at verse 31. “The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’” People in the crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet; they wouldn’t let them near Jesus. But they shouted all the louder! Actually very few people understood God’s loving character like these blind beggars did. Very few understood why Jesus had come in the first place. And very few knew what was on his heart and mind like these blind men did. Most people had no idea that Jesus had come to help people just like this. The blind beggars knew! And when you have faith like this, nothing on earth can stop you from reaching out to the Savior. That’s something to keep in mind. When you’re convinced of the love of God for you, not even a crowd of a thousand could stop you. When you’re certain that Jesus would never pass you up, nothing could hinder your faith in him. With this kind of spiritual sense, these two blind beggars’ faith was greater than a crowd of ignorant people. We’re usually always ready to blame someone else or something else for our condition; for our failure; for something or another! But quite honestly, it’s usually our own poor faith that’s to blame. When you decide to have faith, your faith is like mighty river moving towards the sea, crushing anything and everything in its path. That faith is really powerful, if and when you decide to stand on it regardless of your circumstances.
Their loud and persistent prayers were finally heard by Jesus, who never ever ignores them. But the truth is that their faith reached God’s heart first. Look at verse 32a. “Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?”’ he asked.” This is amazing! Isn’t it obvious what they want Jesus to do for them? Yet, Jesus asked them, “What do you want me to do for you?” Why an odd question like this? It’s because of what’s in the heart of all people, blind or not. Jesus often asks questions like these! He did when he met his first disciples who wanted to follow him. He had asked them: “What do you want”? Our heart is a fountainhead of desires. The problem is that so many of these desires are unholy and sinful. “What do you want me to do for you?”. Jesus was offering them whatever they wanted. Let them take a moment to think about it! They could have thought “If we’re made to see, we would still be poor beggars. But if we had riches and fame, we don’t mind being blind with servants to care for us for the rest of our lives.” The desires of the heart are usually depraved and changeable. A person with good intentions said, “If I win the lottery I would build a church, and pay up the debts of family and friends.” But if that person ever gets a hold of that kind of blood money, it would be interesting to see the changes in his inmost desires, and the excuses he makes about keeping it. What I’m saying is that it’s not odd at all that the Lord would ask them a question that penetrates the heart and uncovers all of its hidden desires. Jesus’ question in a way was a test of faith; a test of resolve; a test of truth. When God challenges you and I with a question like this, it’s best to be ready to have a good answer. It’s best to have my heart ready with an answer that reflects the will of God for my life, rather what’s worldly in my heart.
How these blind beggars answered is also odd. Look at verse 33. “’Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’” I like the ESV translation better. It reads: “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Or the NASB which reads: “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.” They could have asked for anything! Who knows, they could have asked for vengeance on all who had hurt them; or for reasons why God left them blind. But they didn’t! They just said what’s on their heart. They wanted their sight, their eyes to be opened. The question is how is it that the answer was right at the tip of their tongues? I think because there was no greed in their hearts; no corruption; no deception. Their motive of their heart was right with God. It seems that they had been praying about this for a long time, to meet the Savior, and to be touched by him. And they were not ready to give this up even for the world! Their persistence and faithfulness in what they wanted is really amazing and commendable. They were noble. Their prayer was simple. They just wanted their sight. They wanted their eyes to be opened. And God answered! Many desires flood the human heart. And each one of us tends to have many prayer topics too, most of which we often forget. But it’s good for us when we have the faith to let go of desires of heart that do not measure up to God, and settle for those prayers that make us more Christ-like, that honor and serve God’s will for us, for the church, and for God’s salvation work. “We want our eyes to be opened” is one of the most precious prayer topics you can hold in your heart. “Lord, open my eyes that I may see your glory, that I may see your hand of grace working, that I may see the clear path to your kingdom.”
Look at verse 34. “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” They were helpless, but they weren’t hopeless. They were miserable, but not discouraged. They trusted in the compassion of the Messiah. They believed that the Lord would visit them and show them mercy. It was their faith that stood every trial, even when others tried to hinder them and prevent them from coming to Jesus. They prayed earnestly, patiently, persistently, with assurance that their prayer would be answered. And finally when the Lord visited them, they abandoned whatever desires were in their heart to express what is most urgent, and needed, and pleasing to God. They wanted their eyes to be opened. And when the Lord opened their eyes, not only their eyes were opened, but their souls were healed. Look again at verse 34. They “followed him”. Its not enough that we seek the Lord’s healing touch, and that we receive it by his grace. When your soul is truly healed, you have one desire above all desires that overwhelms you with joy and peace— to follow Jesus. David prayed like this: “Whom have I in heaven but you; and being with you, I desire nothing on earth.” (Ps.73:25) Paul’s prayer was: “I want to know Christ.” (Phi.3:10) Jesus’ prayer was this: “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” (John 17:1) It was what was on their hearts. If your heart’s desires are noble, you pray according to the noble desires of our hearts. If your heart’s desires rest in this world, you pray with a greedy heart for selfish things. “Lord please, close my eyes to worldly glory, and open them to the glory of your grace and truth. Let me participate in your remaining suffering until I sit at your feet in your glory in heaven.” Amen