What strikes me about today reading is the dramatic difference between two identical requests.
In Mark 10:35, the Apostles James and John have this exchange:
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
In Mark 10:48, Bartimaeus has this one:
But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
Both times Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
It is an astonishing thought to think that God asks us, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the answer that we give will prompt different responses from God. James and John ask for honor and recognition. Notice that the answer given to James and John is not a direct, “No”. I have heard it said that God never says “No”. He either says, “Yes”, “Not now” or “I have something better that I will give you”. Jesus tells James and John that they don’t understand what they are asking for, that they are in effect asking for something that cannot be granted and that they don’t yet understand how such a request could be obtained. Jesus explains that the road to heaven is paved with suffering and service. And don’t be too hard on James and John, we know that Jesus will tell the Apostles that they sit on thrones in heaven and judge the twelve tribes of Israel – they learn their lesson well.
In contrast, we see Bartimaeus, is blind but sees Jesus the more clearly. He calls Jesus the “Son of David”, recognizing him as the Messiah. He cries out to Jesus, not once but repeatedly. He refuses to stop even in the face or criticism of others. His request is not for glory or earthly comfort but for healing. Jesus grants his request and gives him permission to “go on his way”. But Bartimaeus does not go on his way; the next says he followed Jesus. This should also be our response to answered prayers. Again, don’t be too hard on James and John, they were rebuked but they continued to follow Jesus and did exactly as He said they would. They were men who dedicated their lives in service to the gospel and they drank deeply from the cup of suffering that Jesus drank from.