Week Four

This week, we discovered that some us still were apprehensive about asking God for the desire of our heart.  Several questions kept us in doubt of ourselves:  “What right do I have to ask?” “Why should I expect God to give me what I want?” “How do I know that I am asking for the right things?”  To answer these questions, we turned from our focus in 1 Samuel to Mark chapter 10.  

This chapter puts side by side two stories of different people asking Jesus for something, and his responses to them.   Both instances occur while Jesus and his disciples and other followers are going to Jerusalem, as Jesus is on his way to meet his destiny at the cross. 

Let us look at the first inquiry:

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee , came to Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.’  And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ They said to Him, ‘Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’  They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ So Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left hand is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.'” Mark 10:35-40 (NKJV)

Now let us compare the second inquiry:

“Now they came to Jericho.  As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging.  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’  Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called.  Then they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.’  And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.  So Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’  The blind man said to Him, ‘Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’  And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus an the road.” Mark 10: 46-52 (NKJV)

What similarities can we see?  Both times Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”  This tells us that God is always willing to listen to us when we want something.  He wants us to talk to him and tell him what we want.  He never imposes on us what we should want from him.  He gives us the freedom to ask whatever we may.  And in both cases, each person came away from the encounter having received something.

James and John had dreams of golden cups and lives of leisure in the royal courts of a earthly Jerusalem reclaimed and restored by the Son of David.  Jesus told them that they did not understand.  See, Jesus’s greatest glory comes on the cross, when he lays down his life for those he loves, for the sake of you and me and all of humanity.  Jesus promises James and John that they indeed will share in his glory, meaning that they too will suffer and even die for those they love.  But the positions of honor and power that they asked for out of selfish ambition, Jesus would not, could not grant.

Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus, and is told to be quiet by those who were with Jesus.  But Jesus stops to listen.  Then Jesus tells those that were shushing Bartimaeus to call him to come.  Excited, Bartimaeus leaves his cloak which probably contained what money he had collected begging, and he came and asked Jesus to restore his eyesight. 

At first glance, it seems obvious and easy for Bartimaeus to ask to be able to see, but in reality it was a risky petition.  In gaining his sight, he would loose his livelihood as a beggar, a legitimate profession for the disabled in that culture.  But he could then learn a trade so that he could work inside the city instead of being relegated to working outside the walls and the community.  Bartimaeus would also have to live with the consequences of having been healed by Jesus which sometimes included persecution for the person who was healed and maybe even his family. In John chapter 9, the Pharisees interrogate not only a blind man who was healed by Jesus but also his parents.  It would have been much easier for Bartimaeus just to have asked for money, or even asked to be able to come along with the crowd.  But he asked out of his need to be made whole. Jesus grants his wish jsut as he asked, and even grants him the freedom to do what he wanted with his sight saying, “Go your way.”

The differences in the two stories are not only the motivation behind what was being asked. James and John ask for self-gain but Bartimaeus asks for restoration to wholeness, health and restoration to his community.  But also the petitioners differ in their approach to Jesus.  James and John come to Jesus to ask a favor.  Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus for mercy from his affliction, and Jesus calls Bartimaeus.  This is something that we too have in common with Bartimaeus, we all feel called by Jesus, out of our feeling of something missing, something not complete with us or in us, called to be free to ask for what we want, wanting to ask for that which will make us whole.

Bartimaeus and Hannah both ask to be restored to wholeness, community and honor.  Both are told to be silent when they cry out to God.  And in both cases, those who said be to be quiet were corrected and then used for good by God in that situation.  And both Hannah and Batimaeus received exactly what they had asked for.  And both were sent on their way to do what they would with their gift.  And both gave back to God, Bartimaeus by following Jesus and Hannah by giving back her son to God’s service.

So, in following Hannah’s example, this week the challenge is birthing.  Hannah was granted a child, but she had a huge role to play in bringing that child into the world.  Just like Hannah, we are challenged to do what we must to bring into being that which we have been called to ask for.  And we challenge you to do the same.  We know that it will not be easy, and may even be painful, but what a blessing waits for us on the other side of our labor!

May your labor be fruitful and may you know God’s presence with you throughout the process.

Amy Schwab, for those of us in search of The Next Thing