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jesus the radical pastor | exploring the life and mission of the 1st century Jesus for our 21st century » Blog Archive » The Jesus Question

I have been preaching through Mark’s Gospel at Fellowship Evangelical Covenant Church. The more I read, study and learn about Mark’s biographical narrative of Jesus’ life, the more convinced I am of Mark’s literary creativity and genius. For example, in Mark 10 we encounter the Jesus question twice: 10:36 and 10:51a.

10:36 “What do you (plural) want me to do for you?”

10:51a “What do you (singular) want me to do for you?”

Jesus asks James and John what they want (36) and he asks blind Bartimaeus what he wants (51a). The answers are so telling and present Mark’s theology of Jesus as the suffering servant who has come to serve.

James and John want thrones. They want seats of power next to Jesus in the kingdom. James and John want to be served in the kingdom. They want to rule. Their request exposes their hearts and we find their hearts are very far from Jesus’ heart.

Bartimaeus wants to see. He simply wants light; deliverance from darkness. He knows that he is totally at the mercy of the “son of David.”

In between these two questions is Jesus’ declared mission: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45).

The blind beggar, Bartimaeus, receives sight and eagerly follows. He truly is a “son of honor.” James and John, who were already following, jockey for power and show how far removed they are from Jesus’ spirit and mission.

During this election cycle in USAmerican politics I hear Jesus asking the church, “What do you want?” And the church seems once again to be enamored with power. “We need a Christian president, we need a conservative Supreme Court, we need more like us to have seats of power.” In American politics we trust. The more the church chases power the more steeped in blindness she becomes.

When we in our blindness call out to our Messianic King Jesus for mercy, perhaps we too will receive our sight. Then maybe we can follow the Jesus Way–the way of the cross, not the way of ruling power. Maybe we will begin to serve as we let go of our need to rule. Maybe we will access “the deep magic” (C S Lewis) that political power can never offer, nor does it understand. Maybe then our society will see a new light, see another way out of the mess we’re in.

Jesus asks even now, “What do you want me to do for you?” Our answer to the Jesus Question reveals our hearts like nothing else.

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