"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

I Want To See with Clarity, Not Sit with Authority

There are only two times in the New Testament when Jesus says to someone, "What do you want me to do for you?"


Imagine if the Creator of the universe asks you personally, "What do you want me to do for you?" It reminds me of the old joke of the man walking on the beach and he finds a bottle with a genie inside, and ... well, you know where I'm going. What if God posed this question to you? How do you think you would respond?

It fascinated me to discover that the two occasions where Jesus asks this question are both found in  Mark 10. The first time he asks two of His disciples, James and John, "What do you want me to do for you" (Mark 10:36) and they responded:
"Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory" (Mark 10:37). 
What was it they were wanting? From Jesus response, we gather that James and John wanted the power and authority of Jesus. They wished to "sit with authority" over others in the Kingdom. The way Jesus responded to their request reveals what Jesus thinks about so called "spiritual authority." He says to James and John, "you don't know what you are asking," and then responds with these sharp words:
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you. Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:41-45). 
Jesus rebuked James and John for wanting to "exercise authority over others." I've said before, and I'll say it again, the greatest problem in evangelical Christianity today is the desire for pastors, elders, and "spiritual leaders" to exercise spiritual authority or power over God's people. This is not the way it's supposed to be, at least according to Jesus.

The second time Jesus asks the question "What do you want me to do for you" is just a few verses later in in Mark 10. There is a blind man waiting on the side of the road as Jesus walks out of Jericho heading to Jerusalem. His name is Bartimaeus. The blind man responds to Jesus by saying:
"I want to see..."
Jesus then commends Bartimaeus for His faith and heals the blind man. So, in the same chapter we have Jesus asking two times "What do you want me to do for you?"  The first time he asks, his disciples, James and John, answer "We want to sit with authority" and Jesus rebukes them. The second times He asks, the blind man Bartimaeus responds, "I want to see with clarity" and Jesus praises him.

Preachers, we must learn well the lesson of Mark 10.

Desiring bigger influence over people, or wanting more "spiritual authority,' or asking God to give you a church or a group of believers who will recognize your authority and do what you say ("because the preacher is our spiritual authority") is a desire that seems ripe for Divine rebuke.

However, praying that you might "see with clarity" the wisdom of God is a prayer Jesus honors. When we acknowledge our weakness and turn to Jesus for clarity, we are only concerned with our ability to see, never others willingness to follow.

I'd rather be like blind Bartimaeus than James and John. I want to see with clarity and not even think of having any so-called spiritual authority.


Anonymous said...

Looking forward to your blog on this:


Wade Burleson said...


I think the IMB is going in the right direction under David Platt. I never could understand how under the previous two Presidents we could always spend more money than we took in, sale capital assets (hospitals, offices, homes, real estate, etc...) and pour the capital revenue into the annual fiscal budget, and continue to appoint more and more missionaries while seeing greater revenue shortfalls year after year. It must be done.

It's important to reach the world, but if we truly believe "where God guides, He provides," then we need to take a step back and ask, "Is God guiding us ... or are we doing what we want?" Balanced budgets are an essential for Christian ministries.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again, Wade, for another incredibly helpful article.

That was my experience at my former NeoCal church, something you mentioned in another article about authoritarianism in today's churches (along with dangerous Membership Covenants).

It was heartbreaking to watch excommunications and shunnings for the slightest dissent and expression of Christian conscience at my former church (a wife who didn't want to go to that church any more because she saw its problems; a doctor married for 45+ years who disagreed in private with the pastors/elders; me for protecting children from the pastors/elders' friends a convicted sex offender whom they defended. OK, folks, we lock our car doors, our homes, our other valuables...and our children aren't worthy of protection?)



Ramesh said...

I personally think when one sees with clarity and not sit with authority in all relations and interactions ... we get a piece of heaven on earth.

Rex Ray said...

I don’t know about the man walking on the beach and finds a bottle with a genie.

Unless it’s three guys stranded on an island and find the genie that gives each one wish. After two are granted wonderful wishes, the third said, “I miss my friends; I wish they were with me.”

It’s too bad the pastor I mentioned in a previous post did not believe/practice your excellent post of today. With his bylaws, he set himself up to rule with authority as KING.

There’s no identity of Mark 10:36, but these say:
“What do you want Me to do for you?” (Holman)
“What is your request?” (NLT)

There’s a danger of anyone saying about the Bible: ‘There’s ONLY …’

In Mathew 20:21, the mother of James and John asked Jesus the same request as they did after Jesus asked:
“What do you want?” (Holman)
“What is your request?” (NLT)

I hope I haven’t come across as one with authority. :)

Bob Cleveland said...

I forget which of the financial counseling folks it was that said, perhaps 30 years ago, that when your outgo exceeds your income, you have to change something. Kind of like oil .. when (and if) the supply is limited, you really MUST do something besides conservation and price increases. Mainly because, if you do both of those things, you will STILL run out one day.

Enter the dirty words, the profit motive. Any good businessman would have dealt with the problem the first year it happened.

It would seem someone ignored Luke 14:28 “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him, 30 saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

Rex Ray said...

“…and continue to appoint more and more missionaries…”

I believe these missionaries are not ‘long time’ missionaries, but what is called “short time”.

I also believe they don’t serve as God would lead them but are under “authority” as an employee because their ‘leaders’ don’t trust them.

A while back one missionary complained the ‘rope’ they were to hang on to for support was used to hang them.

Nancy said...

Amen, Bro. Wade. A good message for all of us - not just preachers.

Curious Thinker said...

I agree with the others this was great post with a good message. God Bless.

Aussie John said...

I didn't think I would ever see a leader of Christians say the words of your last paragraph.

Thank you for it!

Chris Riley said...

Reminds me of the book Jesus on Leadership by Wilkes. Howard Batson, the pastor of FBC Amarillo, just celebrated 20 years as their pastor. He was quoted in the Amarillo Globe News saying he credits his long tenure not only to an awesome staff and church, but also to a willingness to be a learner instead of teacher.

Christiane said...

“When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure;

but then God Himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them.

When I became acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me became the source of spiritual and physical consolation for me.”

(an excerpt from the Testament of St. Francis of Assisi)

Christiane said...

" . . . He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him . . . "

(from the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 24)

Anonymous said...

Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)

"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."

Obey and submit.

Bill said...

Bro Wade: Regarding your IMB comment, please forgive the off topic question. The word going around is that the IMB trustees did not vote to approve the new financial measures being undertaken by the IMB. I find this incredible. I know you may not be able to say for sure, but is such a thing likely?

I understand if you don't care to speculate.

Wade Burleson said...


I would think that Trustees only vote on a budget recommendation from IMB Leadership. I'm not sure, but in my opinion, administration at the IMB is preparing FOR a budget, and the trustees will vote on it in the future. David Platt is casting vision. Trustees will implement (or overturn) Platt's vision.