There’s a certain account in the Gospels that always stirs up in me the same reaction: a mixture of thoughtfulness and laughter. The passage in question is Matthew 20:29-34 (and its analogs in other Gospels). In Matthew’s version, Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem on what we’ve come to call Palm Sunday, when he is verbally “accosted” by two blind men. They had been sitting by the roadside (begging, no doubt) and got word that Jesus was passing by. They shouted out to him, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
We’re told that the crowd rebuked them for their lack of decorum, but that only riled them up to shout the same demand all the louder. Jesus stopped in his tracks and asked them, “What do you want me to do for you?”
This is the part of the story that I can’t read or hear without laughing a bit. I imagine the blind beggars responding, “Well, Jesus, let us think about it… Let’s see, we’re a couple of blind guys who have no way to earn a living and who are forced to rely on the mercy of others even to scrape by. Hmmm…good question. I wonder what you could do for us.” The need of these men was painfully obvious to all of those around them. Yet Jesus paused to ask them, “What do you want me to do for you?”
This is where I begin to do some deeper thinking and reflecting. Jesus’ question reminds me not to jump to conclusions about people and their apparent needs. He models what it might look like to view people as, well, people—rather than as problems to be fixed or merely as needs to be met. Jesus took the time to let these men identify their own needs and formulate their own requests. I’m struck by how often, out of a desire to do good and to meet needs, we Christians tend to draw up plans for “repairs” that have never been articulated or requested. And, when people do come looking for assistance, we sometimes try a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to engage folks in genuine, interactive conversation.
I wonder if the blind men truly realized how powerfully capable this Son of David was, and how they could have answered his question by presenting for his healing even deeper needs than their blindness. I think of the many times I come to Jesus asking for things that are more superficial than I’d care to admit. It’s so tempting to ask for relief rather than patience, for ease rather than challenge-prompted growth, and for answers rather than deeper faith. I’m reminded of Solomon, who asked for wisdom, and found riches, honor and an enduring legacy added as well. Yet, I’m also encouraged by this example in Matthew of Jesus answering physical, tangible needs.
As we continue our journey through 2017 and in a new season of ministry at Redeemer, I want to encourage each of us —myself included—to ponder what it is exactly that we would like to ask Jesus to do for us. We know that God is the giver of every good thing, and that the riches of Christ are unimaginable and inexhaustible, so what is it that we would seek of him and choose to cry out to him about? What are those deepest needs for which Christ is our only hope? What is it that we choose to call out to Jesus for, both as individuals and as a body of believers?
As we ponder that question, let’s be prepared to ask Jesus a question as well: “What do you want me/us to do for you?” We can trust that Jesus will meet our every need, and we can trust as well that he will continue to invite us into fulfilling, stretching, fruitful lives of service, as we say yes to those “good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). Even as we call out for mercy, let us be attentive to the call of Christ upon our lives as well.