A blind man named Bartimaeus came to Jesus. Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Well, duh! Hello! I’m blind!”
Did Jesus ask a stupid question?
Not if you think about it.
The Nature of Jesus’s Questions
Whenever Jesus asked a question, he was not looking for information. He is God. He knows everything. When he walked on earth, he knew what people were thinking. In chapter 2 of Mark, after Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic, the scribes were thinking that Jesus had committed blasphemy. The Bible says, “Right away Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves” (2:8). So here in chapter 10, when Jesus asked the blind man what he wanted, he already knew what he wanted, but Jesus wanted Bartimaeus to think it through and say it out loud.
At the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, John the Baptist was with two of his own disciples, and he pointed to Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples started walking along behind Jesus. Jesus turned and asked, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38). That is indeed a probing question.
If you stop and give that question a lot of thought, rather than just giving a quick answer, it could affect your whole life. When you think about following Christ, what are you looking for? What do you want to get out of it? What do you expect to put into it? Ponder the question. Write out your answer. There’s a reason Jesus asks that question of those who follow him.
The Purpose of Jesus’s Ministry
People came up to Jesus during his ministry and asked for healing. And Jesus traveled around, teaching, preaching, and healing (Matthew 4:23; 9:35). The healing ministry of Jesus and his disciples was a sign that the kingdom of God was beginning to arrive (Luke 10:9).
But it’s interesting to see what Jesus did at the beginning of his ministry. When four friends lowered a paralytic into the room where Jesus was teaching, before they had time to tell Jesus their agenda, he forgave the man’s sins (Mark 2:5). That was Jesus’s agenda. After he forgave the man’s sins, he proved that he had done so—in the view of the scribes who were watching—by healing the man’s paralysis.
After Jesus forgave the man’s sins and healed him, people came from all over the country to be healed. But nobody came to have their sins forgiven. (A possible exception was the woman who washed Jesus’s feet; Luke 7:36–50.) The people didn’t pick up on Jesus’s ultimate agenda. He described the glories of the kingdom of heaven; they settled for making their time on earth a little more bearable.
The Particulars of This Encounter
Here, toward the end of Jesus’s ministry, he asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” Just recently he had posed the identical question to James and John. Their answer demonstrated that, after three years listening to Jesus’s teaching, they still didn’t understand his agenda. They asked for prestige (Mark 10:37). Jesus must have been disappointed in their answer. Now he posed the question to the blind man. Would Jesus be disappointed or pleased with his answer? Bartimaeus asked for physical healing.
People sometimes ponder what they would ask for if the proverbial genie in a bottle offered them one wish. Here the incarnation of God himself, the omnipotent Creator and sustainer of the universe, offers to grant the blind man one wish.
If you were on the street begging for money, and someone invited you to name an amount, your answer would depend on your perception of the donor. If another homeless person offered, you might request a few dollars for lunch. You might ask a well-dressed benefactor for twenty or even a hundred. If you recognized Bill and Melinda Gates, you might ask for several thousand or even a million dollars. What would you ask from God, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10)?
The Effect of Bartimaeus’s Sight
It appears that Bartimaeus didn’t put a lot of thought into how profound the question was or how capable his benefactor was. He gave the obvious answer: “I want to see” (Mark 10:51).
I’m speculating here, but it’s possible that Jesus granted more than was asked for. Not only did Bartimaeus see trees and houses and people, but he seems to have perceived and understood something deeper about Jesus himself. As Jesus performed the miracle, he didn’t just announce that Bartimaeus was healed of his blindness; he said, “Go, your faith has saved you” (verse 52). And Bartimaeus didn’t just quit begging and go to work; he “began to follow Jesus on the road.”
Jesus’s response to the two disciples of John also has the potential for deeper interpretation. When Jesus asked, “What are you looking for?” the disciples responded, “Where are you staying?” Jesus said, “Come and you’ll see” (John 1:39). Then, after three years of listening to Jesus’s teaching, and after the resurrection, the disciples really did see Jesus. They understood the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’s name.
Jesus’s Current Offer
The day Bartimaeus met Jesus was a good day for him. What about you? Will Jesus grant you one wish?
It’s better than that! Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you” (John 15:7; see also 14:12–14; 15:16; 16:23–24). Jesus is in effect forwarding the question on to you: “What do you want me to do for you?”
How are you going to respond? Remember, Jesus wants us to meditate on the question and carefully formulate our answer. Are you going to ask him to address your sore neck or the chronic pain in your knee? Certainly you’re not going to ask for a beach house or a sports car! After some spiritual reflection, you might echo Bartimaeus’s request, but with the deeper meaning in mind: “I want to see you clearly, Jesus.”
But that’s what you want for yourself. Maybe it would be better to request a blessing for someone else: “I want my siblings and my friends to see you, Jesus.” Or, “Save my son!” Or even, “Where do you want to send me in this broken world so that others might see you?” In fact, that’s the context of Jesus’s promises in John chapters 14–16. God will grant whatever you ask so that people are saved and he gets the glory.
What does your prayer life look like? God will grant you anything in Jesus’s name! Are you requesting something to benefit yourself, like James and John did? Are you asking for mere healing, like Bartimaeus? Or are you asking for the salvation of sinners so that God’s glory will spread throughout the world? “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth.”
Jesus asks you, “What do you want me to do for you?” That is not a stupid question.