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.