The Friend Who Asks (Mark 10:46-52)
It’s the Friday before Memorial Day. Folks at work are discussing their plans for the summer. What if you said you were going to take your family to a big city? An excited colleague might immediately bludgeon you with helpful advice: “You need to see this! You need to do that! You need to stay here! You need to eat there!”
But what if you needed to save money? What if you said your family would be going camping? This time a colleague might ask, “Do you have everything you need?”
Both colleagues wish you well—but which of them acts more like a friend?
The needs of Bartimaeus, a beggar sitting beside the road to Jericho, were obvious, but what he needed most was to be quiet! At least, that’s what the crowd thought as they followed Jesus along the road one day. The blind man’s crying out to Jesus had become tiresome. Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:48)!
In the Gospels, rebukes sound ugly when they come from sinners’ lips. Peter rebuked the Lord for prophesying His death and resurrection (Mark 8:32). The disciples rebuked parents for bringing their children to Jesus (Mark 10:13). The disciples presumed to do this because they “had Jesus’ needs at heart.” They didn’t want Him to be bothered, just like the people of Jericho didn’t want Him to be bothered. But all these efforts to give Jesus what He “needed” were efforts to obstruct what He truly needed to do: to live and die as the Friend of sinners. That’s why He put an end to these ugly rebukes.
Jesus stopped in the road and called for Bartimaeus. At once, all those irritated people became the blind man’s well-wishers—even if they went on telling him what to do: “Be of good cheer. Rise! He is calling you” (Mark 10:49b).
Bartimaeus didn’t need to be told twice. He threw off his cloak, sprang to his feet, and—as though he were already seeing—came to Jesus. Then Jesus did something unexpected. He asked the blind man a question: “What do you want Me to do for you?” (v. 51a).
Your colleague asked if you needed anything for your camping trip. Why? Because your colleague has camped before and knows all the equipment needed. You don’t need someone to tell you what to do: “Bring a sleeping bag and bug spray! Pitch a tent! Build a fire!” But there may be something you lack, and your colleague—who’s treating you like a friend—may be able to provide it.
“What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus already knew the answer, but He asked the question for several reasons. He asked in order to give the blind beggar dignity, which no one else was giving him that day—and maybe never had. Jesus asked so that Bartimaeus might confess his faith in Him and present his petition with confidence: “Rabboni (“My Teacher”), that I may receive my sight” (v. 51b).
“What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus asked His question, and did as He was asked, to teach every person in the crowd—and every one of us—two important lessons: first, that here in Bartimaeus, the man they had rebuked, was an example of the persistent, faith-fueled prayer that pleases God; second, that here in Jesus we find the true Friend of sinners, who knows what we need and well provides it! The Lord encourages us to call on His name and ask Him for what we need in the same spirit as the man who once sat and begged beside the road to Jericho.
Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road (v. 52). The road to Jericho was now the road from Jericho. It would lead to suffering and death, as Jesus prophesied, but also to resurrection and everlasting life.
Faithful Bartimaeus walked that road beside his Savior and Friend. How could he not, when his eyes had been opened by the Word of Christ? And how can we not do the same?
-Rev. Christian Eisenbeis