I’ve written previously about the dynamic of giving voice to our wants (see “What do you want?” on November 29, 2012).
Reading through Mark recently, I noticed that in the second half of chapter 10, there are two occasions where Jesus asks people the powerful question, “What do you want me to do for you?” (vv. 36, 51).
When the author repeats a statement and places them back-to-back in the narrative, we should take notice.
Mark is up to something significant.
The occasions giving rise to the question are different. In the first story, Jesus responds to a favor that James and John ask of him.
In the second, Jesus directs the question to Bartimaeus, who happens to be blind. He’s been creating a commotion in hopes of attracting Jesus’ attention. His efforts pay big dividends. (I’ll discuss this event in a future blog entry.)
Apparently Jesus is interested in what we want and insists we give them a voice.
“What do you want Jesus to do for you?” is a great question to ask ourselves from time to time. It’s also a great question to ask those we lead and serve.
How we answer says a lot about us. What we don’t say may reveal even more.
In the first story, Jesus elicits the disciples’ true desires. It brings to the surface what they may otherwise would never admit.
To their credit, the disciples answer honestly. They don’t censure. They don’t cloak their response with spiritual jargon to make their desires more palatable.
“We want top billing. We want in front of the line. We want power, status and position. Furthermore, we want to beat the others to the draw and be the first to ask.”
I’m pretty sure I would have dressed up my answer. I have enough church experience to know how to make selfish, prideful demands sound more spiritually acceptable. I know how to bury my desires. I know how to lie.
Being involved in church and ministry has contributed to my propensity to cover my true desires and motives.
A good practice is to read this passage and put ourselves in James and John’s place. When Jesus asks us what we want him to do for us, answer with the first thing that pops in our mind–what comes spontaneously, immediately before we have a chance to filter.
If we can’t pull that off, then identify what we choked down. What didn’t we say but wanted to?
In my more honest moments I’d say things like:
- I want lots of money.
- I want a big church where everyone cheers when I speak.
- I want somebody with clout to notice me and give me my big break.
- I want the sins of my past to disappear without any consequences.
- I want my life to be easy.
Jesus allows James and John to shoot straight. He invites us to follow suit.
Our wants tell a story. Acknowledging them gives Jesus access to our hearts. Like James and John, voicing our wants opens the door to repentance and transformation.
When I allow Jesus access to my desires, when I sit with him with my wants on the table, I come to realize that what I really want is:
- I want to know I’m significant
- I want this season of life to count and have impact.
- I want to feel secure.
- I want grace to free me of my shame.
I also begin to repent. What I initially wanted are substitutes for what I really need.
They are my demands to have life my way, on my terms.
They are substitutes for Jesus.