From: Hannah P.
Jesus asks the same question twice in today’s gospel reading. “What do you want me to do for you?”
He asks James and John first. Jesus, the twelve disciples, and a crowd are travelling to Jerusalem and Jesus has just told his disciples what will happen when they get there, that he will be killed. It’s hard to tell how time passes in Mark’s gospel, but the way this is written, it seems that just a moment later, James and John pull Jesus aside and demand that he give them places of honor, at his right and left, when he comes into his glory. “You don’t know what you’re asking,” Jesus says to them.
Later, Jesus and the crowd are leaving Jericho. “Have mercy on me,” Bartimaeus, a blind man, cries out, from his place on the roadside. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks him. The man says, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
The same question from Jesus. The very same words. Two different responses.
It seems obvious, with the whole gospel of Mark spread out before us, that the disciples are missing the point, as they often seem to. Quarreling about which of them is the best. Somehow not hearing Jesus’s very clear words about his death. Not knowing that the places at his right and left will be places of suffering. It seems clear that the blind man has some wisdom that the disciples don’t, about what he ought to ask Jesus.
But perhaps the disciples’ concerns are more familiar to me than those of the beggar. I am in the throes of moving into a new home. As my husband and I settle in, it is easy to spend so much energy and thought on giving everything just the right touch. Unexpected anxious thoughts revolve around what others will think of our little place in the world. When I write it down it seems needlessly self-involved.
I think both the scenes in today’s reading—and my own anxieties—have to do with the inability to see. It is easy to miss Jesus. To see only how his power can increase our power. The cries of Bartimaeus are appropriate ones for us to take up in this season of Lent. Of the two requests made of Jesus, they are the ones that are immediately answered.
Have mercy on me.
I want to see.
I live on Cape Cod and work in Cambridge. I come to Church of the Cross whenever I can.