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Mark XIX: A Ransom for Many - Mark 10:32-52

Both James and John on one hand, and Blind Bartimaeus on the other, come to Jesus to make a request, and Jesus responds to them with the same searching question: “What do you want me to do for you?”

That question is searching, because it tests your own awareness of your desires as well what you think of Jesus and His kingdom. What you ask for depends on what you think you need, and who you think you’re asking. And so as we consider the disciples’ answer as well as Bartimaeus’, we ought to examine our own hearts and hear Jesus ask us the same question. What do you want Jesus to do for you?

The backdrop for both of these encounters is Jesus’ third announcement of His mission to Jerusalem, which is starting to feel like a death march: He’s going to Jerusalem to die, and His resolve and determination startles and scares His followers. In answer to their amazement, He once again explains to the Twelve that His own people will condemn Him and the Gentiles will kill Him before He rises on the third day.

The rest of the passage sandwiches the two repetitions of the question “what do you want me to do for you” on either side of Jesus’ exhortation to embrace the greatness of being the servant of all. And the high point of this exhortation is Jesus’ account of His own particular service, where He explains why He must go and die. He’s giving His life as a ransom for many. This what we need the Son of Man to do for us! If we really understood who He was, and if we really understood our need, we would ask Him to ransom us, to buy us back from our slavery to sin and to set us free to follow the way of God.

This is what makes the request that the Sons of Thunder bring to Jesus so painful to hear. Jesus is focused on serving others by giving up His life as a ransom, and James and John are focused on making sure they get the best seats in Jesus’ kingdom. What do you want from Jesus? James and John want a reward. They want glory, places of honor around King Jesus’ throne.

When the other disciples heard about what James and John had done, they were indignant. And from the way Jesus responds, we see that they weren’t upset at how badly James and John had misunderstood Jesus’ mission; they were upset that they hadn’t thought to ask for such a reward first.

And so Jesus teaches them once again the difference between His kingdom and the world’s way of power and authority. In the Gentile kingdoms, authority was wielded for self. In Jesus’ kingdom, authority was used to serve. Because of this, Greatness isn’t measured by how people serve you; greatness is measured by how many people you are able to serve. And the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.

So what does it look like to follow the world’s greatest servant? And when the world’s greatest servant offers His services to you, what do you ask for? James and John and the rest of the disciples are blind; they can’t see the answer.

As Jesus passes through Jericho, the last stop before Jerusalem, Mark gives us the account of Blind Bartimaeus’ healing to open our eyes to what being a disciple of Jesus looks like. Bartimaeus knows who Jesus is: He’s the Son of David! He knows what he wants from Jesus: mercy! He knows how to come before Jesus: call out with faith! And he knows what to do in response to the mercy of God through Jesus: follow Jesus on the way. Every discipleship lesson from Mark’s gospel is found right here in Bartimaeus. The blind man shows the way!

And what the blind man sees is Jesus. Even when Jesus is marching intently on His way to Jerusalem to do His greatest and most important work, when He hears a cry for mercy, He stops, calls for Bartimaeus, and gives him the mercy that he asked for. That’s who Jesus is: a willing and merciful Savior, who came to give His life as a ransom for many, paying your debt and saving you from the damage of sin. Calling out for mercy and putting your faith in Jesus will save you!

So what do you want Jesus to do for you? What do you think you need from Jesus? Are you following Him because you want a reward, or because you need to be ransomed? Are you following Him in a spirit of getting, or a spirit of gratitude? Is Jesus your means of getting what you really want from God, or is Jesus what you want?

What do you want Jesus to do for you? Let this be your prayer: “Jesus, open my eyes. Have mercy on me; ransom me and save me, and let me follow you.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2018 by CJ Bowen