UPS used to have a commercial that asked the question, “What can brown do for you?” As we come to the end of this section of Mark’s gospel that highlights and emphasizes what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus, Jesus is now asking us the same question. You see this question asked by Jesus in Mark 10:36, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks the question again in Mark 10:51, “What do you want me to do for you?” Now that you know who Jesus is, what do you want Jesus to do for you? So let us look at the set up that leads to Jesus asking these questions.
What Jesus Will Do (Mark 10:32-34)
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. You will notice that the text says that the people were amazed and that those who followed Jesus were afraid. Crowds are amazed that Jesus is going to Jerusalem and disciples are afraid of going to Jerusalem. The Gospel of Mark has not spent much time identifying all the trouble Jesus has had in Jerusalem. But we know that Jerusalem is the place of opposition. Every time Jesus goes to Jerusalem, the leaders try to kill him. Therefore, crowds are shocked that Jesus is going to Jerusalem. Further, those who are following Jesus are afraid because Jerusalem is not a safe place to go.
So how will Jesus address these fears? Look at verses 33-34. Jesus gives detailed foreknowledge about what is going to happen to him. He is going to be given over to the chief priests and scribes, be condemned to death, and be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. But after three days he will rise again. Jesus does not alleviate these fears or concerns. Their fears are not incorrect. Jerusalem is a dangerous place. In fact, it is so dangerous that Jesus is going to be arrested, condemned to death, mistreated, and killed. This is what Jesus going to do. Jesus is going to do this for the world.
What Do You Want From Jesus (1) (10:35-40)
After Jesus describes to his disciples what is about to happen to him in Jerusalem, look at what happens next in Mark 10:35-40. James and John come to Jesus and say, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Have you had any of your children do this to you? I want you to say yes to whatever I ask you. We want a blank check for you to approve of whatever we want. So Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Listen to their request.
“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (Mark 10:37 ESV)
Jesus does not praise their ambition nor their request. Jesus simply tells them that they have no idea what they are asking. Now, they knew what they were asking for. What Jesus is saying is that they did not understand what it would mean for that to happen, which is what Jesus explains next. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” You see that Jesus continues to express the message that the way to the crown is by going to the cross. The path of glory requires taking the path of suffering. Do you understand that to be in glory means drinking the same cup that Jesus will drink and endure the same baptism that Jesus would be experience?
Now here is what is surprising. James and John say that they are able. Do they fully understand what they are signing up for? Maybe they do. Jesus tells them that they were going to drink the same cup and be baptized with the same baptism. They are going to experience the suffering. They are going to walk the path of suffering. Mark has shown us this truth, especially in the last two chapters. There is glory to come for those who drink this cup, which Jesus notes in verse 40. The place of glory belong to those for whom they have been prepared. Jesus does not say that there is not glorification after suffering. Jesus simply says that those places of glory are for those to whom they have prepared. I believe Jesus is teaching that all who walk with him through suffering will have this place of glory prepared for them.
What A Disciple Is (10:41-45)
Now when the other ten disciples of Jesus heard about what James and John requested, they were indignant. The other disciples were angry with James and John. We get the sense that this is a request that the other disciples wanted to make also because Jesus has to now teach about what true greatness is. Jesus is going to teach what is really looks like to be a disciple.
Look at verse 42. You know the way people are in the world. You know that people who have positions of authority lord it over others and exercise authority over them. People think of authority as a way to tell others what to do. They abuse their power. They use their power for their own selfish purposes and personal gain. They use their authority to get their way. They use their authority to oppress others. People argue over power so that they can be in charge and tell others what to do. We become blinded by power, selfishness, ego, self-elevation, and pride.
But now look at verse 43. It is not to be this way among us. We do not act like this. We do not use our power to oppress others or use authority for selfish purpose. We do not lord it over others. Biblical leadership is not bossing people around. Leading others as a Christian is not forcing people do something. Authority is not used for selfish purposes or for personal gain. Rather, a disciple of Jesus leads by serving. “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Greatness is through serving, not through stepping on others to get to the top. Followers of Jesus use their authority to serve others.
Why do we do this? We do this because this is what Jesus did. Look at verse 45. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If the Lord over all creation did not come compelling others to serve him but instead came to serve and give his life for others, then we must follow in his footsteps. We must also not exist for others to serve us or do what we want but give ourselves to others, serving them and giving our lives to them. Now we need to consider an important question. Did Jesus come to serve only the people who loved him and did good by him? No, Jesus served the whole world and died for the world, even though the world despised and rejected him. We sometimes try to qualify our service and giving of ourselves by only giving ourselves to people who agree with us, or love us, or are nice to us, or like us. We do not serve because someone serves us, does things right, or is good to us. We are called to serve our enemies. We are called to serve and give our lives for others.
The picture of Jesus as a ransom further advances this thought. A ransom is the price for release. We use the word that way when it comes to a person who is enslaved or kidnapped. The price of release for that person is the ransom price. The price to set us free and bring us to glory was Jesus’ own life. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 said that a servant would come who would pour out his life to death and suffer for the many. There was nothing beneficial for himself to give his life at that moment. His death was not for his good but ours. He gave his life to set us free.
What Do You Want From Jesus (2) (10:46-52)
This brings us to the final scene that Mark wants us to observe regarding Jesus. Jesus is approaching Jerusalem and comes into the town of Jericho. Jericho has great significance in Israel’s history because it represents the beginning of the victory march and the fulfillment of God’s promises. This is what Jesus is doing as he begins his victory march to conquer sin and death, fulfilling God’s promises. On the road was a blind beggar sitting on the roadside. When he heard that Jesus was walking by, he starts to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many were telling him to be quiet but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The title “Son of David” is a title for the Christ because God promised the Christ would come from a descendant of David. This blind beggar is calling Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the world.
Though everyone is telling this man to be quiet because he is a blind beggar and surely not worthy of Jesus’ time, Jesus stops (10:49). Jesus stops and calls for this man. The man throws off his cloak and comes to Jesus. Jesus asks this blind beggar the same question that he asked James and John. “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind beggar responds, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” Jesus tells him that his faith has made him well and he recovered his sight. Then he also follows Jesus.
This scene is the hope of the world. Jesus has come to have compassion on the poor and the outcast. Jesus has come to give sight to the blind, giving restoration and healing. Listen to Isaiah’s prophecy declaring that this would be the work of the Savior.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. (Isaiah 35:3–6 ESV)
This is the good news of Isaiah being fulfilled in Mark’s account. Jesus has come to save. Jesus has come to give sight. Jesus has come to heal.
Mark ends this section of his gospel with the same question to you. What do you want Jesus to do for you? Do you want Jesus to give you power? Do you want Jesus to give you wealth? Do you want Jesus to give you health? Do you want Jesus to fix your marriage? Do you want Jesus to change your family? Do you want Jesus to give you a better job? Imagine Jesus coming to you and you get your one request. What do you want Jesus to do for you? Unfortunately we often present Jesus with things that really miss what we should see as our true need. We often see these smaller things in our lives as the big problem. We want Jesus to give us comfort and ease in this life. We want Jesus to give us happiness in this life. We often want Jesus to do things for us that are focused on this world. Or sometimes we want Jesus to do something for us that is selfish. Like James and John, and the other ten disciples, we want Jesus to give us a blank check. Jesus, just do what we want you to do. Just give us what we want. Just do whatever we ask of you. Then we ask for selfish things.
Notice how the blind beggar is contrasted to this when he is asked the very same question. What do you want Jesus to do for you? The blind beggar understood who and what he was. He does not come to Jesus like the man earlier in chapter 10 who thinks he is good and has kept the law. This man knew he was a blind beggar. He knew a simple truth: this is Jesus, the Son of David and I need to see. Our problem is not that we do not have good families, or good jobs, or enough money, or enough comfort, or anything else like this. Our problem that Mark wants us to see at those moment is that each of us truly has only one problem: we are blind and cannot see. We need to cry out to Jesus because we cannot see.
Now we can think that we see because are a Christian and have been one for years. But please notice that James and John had followed Jesus for years. We are only one week away from Jesus dying on the cross in this gospel. But when Jesus asked them what they wanted Jesus to do for them, they did not see what they truly needed. They did not see they could not see. This is exactly what Jesus told the church in Laodicea in the book of Revelation.
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:16–17 ESV)
Here are a bunch of Christians and they do not realize that they cannot see. If those like James and John who were the closest to Jesus for so long were still blind, is it not likely that we are also? The first step to be a disciple of Jesus is to realize we are blind. But this step is a daily first step. Every day we need to wake up and realize that we need Jesus to see. We are blinded by the world. We are blinded by our desires. We are blinded by the god of this world. We are blinded by our fears. We are blinded by our selfish ambition. We are blinded by life. Lord, help us see. But the sight can only come by recognizing our disability. We have to know that we are blind. Otherwise, when Jesus comes to us and asks what do you want, we are not going to say, “Restore my sight.”
Let us look at our lives carefully. Are we seeing clearly when it comes to our faith? Are we seeing clearly when it comes to knowing the Lord? Are we seeing clearly as parents? Are we seeing clearly as children? Are we seeing clearly as husbands and wives? Are we seeing clearly as the fellowship of believers in this church? Are we clearly seeing our sins? Are we clearly seeing how we are the problem in our lives, not others? Are we clearly seeing that need Jesus to heal us and heal our sight before anything else can get better? A disciple of Jesus understands that spiritual sight is everything. We cannot be healed until we see that we are blind (cf. John 9).