“Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus” is the title of the next section in Mark. At least, in my Bible it is. On the outskirts of Jericho, a place where hundreds of years ago the Israelites marched and waited for the walls to fall down, where God began giving the Promised Land to this new nation. And now, here is a blind man, sitting on the side of the road, crying out to God.
Jesus stops and calls the man.
My text says that the man “sprang up.” I love this. He can walk, but he’s blind. He doesn’t presume to approach Jesus, but calls from a distance. Then, when Jesus hears him, the man sprang up. I should imagine. This blind man seems to see better than so many others, as he calls Jesus the “Son of David.” The Son of David, of course, is the Messiah, in the line of the kings, the One Israel Has Been Waiting For.
And then there is the Son of David standing next to the blind man and saying “What do you want me to do for you?”
What would you say? Not if you were blind — that’s easy. But in your life today, in your going-to-work and getting-dinner-ready and blog-reading life? What would you say if Jesus asked you that question?
Now, I understand. We too often think of God as some genie in the sky, and we only have to ask enough or trust enough and we can get whatever we want. Let’s be honest. A little bit of us thinks this, somewhere that we push down and ignore, but somewhere we think that we can get what we want if we just try a little harder. Then, our logical side steps in and reminds us that the God who created the universe isn’t bowing to our whims. So, we don’t necessarily believe in what’s called the Prosperity Gospel, but we do believe we have a loving, powerful God who cares for us and listens to us.
So let me sidestep the Prosperity Gospel argument by saying, quite obviously, sometimes God does ask, “What do you want me to do for you?” Or, at least he did to the blind man on the road outside Jericho. And, I would imagine, he’s done it once or twice since.
And maybe the problem with the Prosperity Gospel is not that it asks too much, but too little. Maybe that’s our daily problem, too, or at least mine. My prayers are often filled with requests, and good requests. Sometimes healing, but more often accoutrements to make the day more comfortable: a fun time with my daughter, time to get some work done, a little inspiration, maybe even some financial security. If God would just give me a little more ______, then I could make it the rest of the way. A little more energy. A little more money. A little more time. A little more patience.
And then I realize that if God answered all these “little mores” my life might be so comfortable I’d never need him again.
So, when he asks “What can I do for you?” maybe the proper answer isn’t a “little more” of something. Maybe it’s something radical: like sight for a blind person. Or, in my rather comfortable life, where I have been given many “little mores”: maybe it’s a faith that I can’t control, or a love that makes me ache in the morning, or a flowering of hope that makes me laugh — literally laugh — when I feel the most frustrated. Maybe, it’s freedom to be my authentic self no matter the situation. Maybe it’s the courage to chase a boyhood dream. Maybe it’s the strength to mend an unrepairable relationship. Maybe it’s something that for so long has seemed impossible — like sight for a blind person — rather than something just out of our reach.
I do know, that when Jesus asks this question, when the Word-Made-Flesh asks, when the Son of God asks this question in a place where a miracle has already happened, the answer is not a little more of anything. The answer is something much more difficult to provide than that.