What do you want me to do for you?
Here’s the whole story:
As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd was following. Two blind men who were sitting by the road heard that Jesus was passing by, so they began to shout, “Son of David! Have mercy on us, sir!” The crowd scolded them and told them to be quiet. But they shouted even more loudly, “Son of David! Have mercy on us, sir!”
Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them. “Sir,” they answered, “we want you to give us our sight!” Jesus had pity on them and touched their eyes; at once they were able to see, and they followed him. (Matthew 20:29-34).
Here we have another healing story, not remarkably different from many others recounted by Matthew. Probably the most similar incident was on Day 82:
Jesus left that place, and as he walked along, two blind men started following him. “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” they shouted. When Jesus had gone indoors, the two blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” “Yes, sir!” they answered. Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Let it happen, then, just as you believe!”— and their sight was restored.
In both stories there are two blind men. In both stories the blind men call out to him begging for mercy. In both stores Jesus asks the men a question. In the earlier story he asks if they believe that they can be healed. In the second story he asks them what they want Jesus to do for them.
Jesus asks, “What can I do for you?” The words of a servant. How can I help you? What do you want?
When I read this I’m struck by the fact that virtually all the people Jesus runs into want healing for themselves or someone close to them. When you think about it, you have to wonder why no one ever asks him for something more expansive. How come they never ask for something really good like an end to violence or homelessness or starvation or poverty? There aren’t even any stories where someone asks for a relationship to be restored. All people seem to care about is physical healing.
I wonder what Jesus would have done if he asked those blind men what they wanted and they said peace on earth for all eternity? Maybe he would have granted that request.
It seems to me that the people described in Jesus’ day didn’t really have a very big time-space perspective. In other words, they were mostly just concerned with what was currently going on in their own little world. They didn’t care a whole lot about other people and their concerns. They think a whole lot about the future. They cared about themselves, their families, their things, and their immediate needs.
The world is a much bigger place today. While there are those who say that as a society we are still very self-centered, I think that today’s communications make it difficult to ignore the world’s problems. We all see those St. Jude’s commercials about little kids suffering from cancer. We all see those news reports about innocent people being murdered by family, friends, or strangers. We hear the wailing of mothers who have lost their children to all kinds of violence. We all see images of war and terrorism in far-flung areas of the world. We are exposed to videos of people being swept away in tsunamis and hurricanes. We all know what starving babies look like because we see their faces on our television screens. We can’t remain blissfully unaware of the suffering of others like the people of Jesus’ day. We are bombarded with the painful sights and sounds of a broken world. If anything we have become anesthetized to it.
So what if Jesus came by today. Would I be willing to plead for help? Would I persist even if his followers told me to shut up? Then, if he asked me what I wanted, what would I ask for? I hope that I wouldn’t ask for something selfish. I hope that I would ask for an end to all violence. I hope I would ask for a cure for cancer. I hope that I would ask for peace and harmony among all people. I hope I would ask for an end to slavery in all of its many forms. I hope I would ask for economic justice and an increase in compassion. I hope I would ask that every child would have a loving home and enough to eat. I hope I would be as passionate about these things as the people in Matthew were about wanting physical healing.
But probably not. I probably wouldn’t ask for help for a broken world. I would probably be suspicious. I would probably just watch from a distance. I would probably wait and hope that someone else would go to him with the longings of my own heart. That’s what I suspect I would do. I wish I could say otherwise, but that’s what I suspect would happen.
On the other hand, we do pray for these things every week at church. We also raise these kinds of concerns at our prayer meetings, and Jesus said on Day 163 that he is there when two or three are gathered. Maybe collectively we are growing out of our selfishness and making some progress in the long run.
What does this scripture say to you?