What Do You Want Me to Do?


Is your first reaction to this story, why isn’t the lesson: what can I do for you Lord? I mean, isn’t it presumptuous of Bartimaeus, who clearly recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, to boldly put forth his request? When Jesus so magnanimously says, “what do you want me to do?” shouldn’t our blind man, shrink in embarrassment and fall to his knees, begging forgiveness of his sins and asking how may I serve you?

Bartimaeus doesn’t do that clearly. I’m told by more learned scholars that the request for “mercy” in the Mediterranean value system is a request that one who OWES pay his debt. This casts Jesus in the role of the one who owes. It is suggested that this is explained in Bartimaeus’ recognition of Jesus as the Messiah and that he is  from the great line of Solomon and David, and thus as such a great one, Jesus should bestow favor upon one who has bestowed such an accolade upon Him.

In any case, when the healing is completed instantaneously, Bartimaeus becomes Jesus’ client, and follows him immediately and throughout the remainder of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and to the cross.

Our first inclination is to approach the Lord with fear, a fear that we find utterly justified given his greatness and our sinfulness. And indeed there are many a preacher and pastor who has and does focus on fear. Fear is potent and an excellent controller of behavior. Every one of us recalls fearing the parental admonition that if we fail to do as ordered, some dire consequence will befall us. Want your dessert after dinner? Well you had better have picked up your room as you were told to!

But is Jesus or God to be feared? Does one actually fear a person who is good? No, we fear one who is inconsistent, unfair, and mean. We fear the parent who is unreliable, who reacts inappropriately either with too much punishment, or none, or punishment that is not tied to anything at all but a whim. God is not like this. God is good, and those who are good can be trusted to be fair. They can be trusted to do justice.

Bartimaeus sees Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God, goodness personified. He TRUSTS Jesus to do what is right, to be fair, consistent, and reliable. Bartimaeus has nothing but his faith. But that is all any of us have. Our wealth, our intellect, our homes and cars and things are nothing to Jesus. Our faith is what saves us and what gains Bartimaeus his sight.

It is that and nothing more. If we have true faith, then we may boldly ask as he did.

Now that doesn’t mean that all we ask for is or will be granted. That is truly not the point here. We are given that which we need. God always gives us exactly what we need to continue. What is not given us is either not needed or is within our own abilities.

Jesus’ very simple quiet, “what do you want me to do” is an acknowledgment of just how proper and right Bartimaeus’ request was. Jesus calls us to lay our needs upon him, not as some wonderful genie who magically grants our requests, but as people of faith who know whom to turn to in our difficult and chaotic lives.

Jesus is the cool drink to a parched soul. He refreshes us to continue the journey.

Let us never be afraid to ask, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”





2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Oct 28, 2012 @ 13:11:42

    Sherry, I hadn’t considered the “fear factor” side of this story–and you do such a terrific job of laying it out that it casts this story in a whole new light for me. How refreshing that in all this buzz surrounding Jesus both He and Bartimaeus grasp there is nothing to fear! And you’re totally correct: when we acknowledge Christ’s Lordship and all that it means, we have no reason to be afraid. Our faith and courage erupt from confidence that God is ever faithful and true!

    So a beautiful reflection! As always, I’m grateful for your thoughtfulness and perception. It lifts me up.

    Blessings always,


    • Sherry
      Oct 28, 2012 @ 16:28:36

      It is perhaps sad to say that I get so little in the homilies given at my church that I can’t wait to read yours? But I guess a poor homilist is a gift since it forces me to struggle with the scripture and search out other voices that give me some ideas. And from that I perhaps learn more than I would have otherwise. So thanks to you and all who help me find deeper meaning each week. Blessings. !END


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