How many of us remember going through a catalog right before Christmas, circling all the things that you wanted. Or going and sitting on Santa’s lap and him asking, “What would you like for Christmas?” I grew up seeing things on TV, writing them down on a note pad, and then when I would get the Toys R Us catalog, I’d see which of the toys I wanted from the TV, were in the catalog, and then circle them. Never really liked sitting on Santa’s lap though, but I’d cover all the angles.
I didn’t get a lot on my list, but I know got more than I deserved. And it was always exhilarating and disappointing on Christmas day when the presents were opened and you got to see what made it from the list to the tree, and more importantly what didn’t. Sock?! I didn’t write down socks. I didn’t write down toothpaste, or underwear. Where’s my Transformers action figure? Where’s my cool Batman airplane? Who mixed up my list with someone else's?
And disappointment led to several conversations between me and my Dad about being grateful for what you did get.
The desire for things, whether they be Christmas presents, or jobs, or money, or family, or possessions, or even social status, it’s all lists we make that we want. And that want can come from a lot of different places. We might want job security, because we might know what it’s like to not have a job and go hungry. We might want a big family, because we might have never really known ours. We might want money, because how are we going to eat without it?
But over time, as we get what we want, our wants can get us into trouble. It is seared into my mind, walking through a mall in Stockton, California, by a K.B. Toy store. I remember my mom telling me that she was going in to get a present for a friend of mine. I started to throw a fit, because I wanted the present. I remember my Dad taking me to the side and telling me, that the present was for me, but now they were not going to get it at all.
Our wants can easily get to a point where we can’t think straight about the implications of our desires. And that’s where we come to in the book of Mark today, two examples of wants and how they play themselves out.
So, if you have your Bibles we’re going to be in Mark chapter 10 starting in verse 32. And as we get into to Mark 10:32, let’s catch up from the last few weeks.
Today we’re coming to the end of a build up in the Gospel of Mark. For the last three weeks we have been seeing a flow of ideas. We started with the idea of questions. How we have a tendency to ask questions that focus more on us, than on God. We talked about how questions are good, and we’re encouraged to ask questions of God throughout Scripture. But as we ask questions, we need to make sure that our questions seek to know God better, rather than solely on the why of our situations.
The next week we moved to one of the reasons our questions focus more on us, rather than on God. And that’s because from time to time, we can loose the desperation of needing God for everything. When we loose are need for God to be are all-in-all at all times, are focus shifts from where it should be and solely rests on us.
Finally, last week we talked about the need to cut things out of our lives. We talked about how we can want the power and benefits that come with the prestige of this life. And how it comes from sin in our lives that needs to be cut out.
In these last three weeks we have been moving from the outside in, to get us to the root cause of all of this. Going from the outside in, we started with questions we asked, we moved to our prayer life of desperation, then we saw the need to cut things out, and today we come to the root of the matter.
Let’s pick this up in verse 32 of chapter 10 in the book of Mark. Where, just like last week, we have a lot of verses to cover, so we are going to focus on the ones that help us grasp the idea that the Holy Spirit is trying to convey.
32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Now this sets the stage for what is about to happen. We’re coming to the end of Mark where, from chapter 11 through 16, we’re going to get the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. This is the fifth time Jesus has spoken about his eventual death and resurrection. But now it’s more urgent, it’s happening soon. Like, in the next couple of days, soon.
So you would think the attitude of the disciples would be subdued, mournful, or scared, but it’s not. Let’s look at verse 35.
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
Here are two disciples, both of which saw the dead girl rise from the dead, both of which saw Jesus transfigured in all his glory. Two disciples not focused on the death of their teacher and friend, but focused on their wants. In this case, their wants are to be in places of power and prestige.
And this is where I step back from the Bible and say, really? That whole teaching on not being the first but being the last, did they not hear any of that? The several times Jesus taught on it?The physical children that Jesus use? The violent imagery Jesus spoke? Did none of it get into these guys heads?
Apparently not. But it wasn’t just these two disciples, in verse 41 we get this,
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
Why? Well if they’re anything like they were before, maybe it’s because they didn’t ask first. They had the attitude that James and John had, just not the willingness to express it.
So Jesus tells them again about how they are to serve. Not being like the non-Jewish people, the Gentiles, who sought prestige and power over people. They are to be like Jesus, servants to all.
But then Mark gives us one more example before we end this section of his Gospel. In verse 46 we get a change of location. Jesus is traveling south, and enters into Jericho. There we are introduced to a blind man named Bartimaeus (Bart-e-mus). Now encountering a blind beggar on the way to Jerusalem isn’t an uncommon sight, but what is uncommon, is Jesus walking down the path.
And so Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus for healing. We’re told that people rebuke him, trying to silence him, but it doesn't’ work, and he shouts all the louder. This shooting gets Jesus’ attention, because he stops and calls for the blind beggar. And we get this interaction starting in verse 50,
50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
A simple healing from Jesus. Something that has become old hat by now within the book of Mark. I mean, a man being healed of blindness is nothing compared to a demon be exercised, or a little girl being raised from the dead, right?
But the reason we get this healing isn’t because of the healing, but rather because of the question that goes with it.
Look at verse 51 again, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” In this case it’s the healing of eyes, but this same question has recently been asked by Jesus to his disciples.
Back in verse 36, Jesus asked his disciples this question when they asked him to do something for them. But the outcome was completely different for the two situations. The two disciples got reprimanded, their question caused more division in their group, and then the whole group got a reprimand. But the beggar got healed, told to go, and choose to follow Jesus instead.
So why are these two linked? Both these situations merge at the point of coming to Jesus for a request. Both came to Jesus with a want. To which Jesus responds with the same question, “What do you want me to do for you?”
But this where the two situations diverge. The disciples wanted something that was self-focused. It was more about them, than about Jesus. Their minds were more focused on what they wanted to get, rather than on Jesus’ soon death.
Now the blind beggar also had a want. He wanted to be healed of blindness. But the difference in his self-focus and disciples was this: The disciples want ended with themselves. They wanted something from Jesus, not for his glory but for their own. They were spiritually blinded to everything else. The blindman’s want was directed at Jesus. His need for healing was directed and Jesus, and when he got his healing, his life turned to follow Jesus.
And this is the root of what we have been talking about for the last three weeks. Our wants have the tendency to become so self-focused that we loose sight of Jesus. God is trying to get our attention on what matters, yet we are so focused on what we want, that we can’t see what he’s doing no matter how many times we’re confronted by it.
This leads us to want power and prestige over people. This leads us to losing our desperation in our prayer life. And this leads us to having questions that focus more on ourselves than on how God wants to work in us. It all comes down to this four little word, want.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, God’s desire is that we want him. That our wants lineup with his wants. Because it’s when our wants and God’s wants are lineup, that we begin to experience the work of God in our lives. We begin to see him moving all around us. We begin to see the miracles that he performs right in front of us. We begin to feel the fulfillment of serving others. And we begin to experience God in new and deeper ways.
This is all done, because God has sent his Spirit to live in those who have accept Jesus as their Savior. Who have come alive, not just in the life to come, but now, today.
My challenge for you this week is simple: make a want list of your life. Be honest, what do you want left in this life? Job, money, security, toys, family, friends? Write it down, then make a parallel list of all the things that you know, or think you know, that God wants in your life. Find where they line up, and fine were they disconnect. Then go to God seeking him to cut out those things that don’t line up, so that you can get closer to him.
As we end this section of Mark, let us look to God to be all we want, so that we can begin to experience him the way he desires us to.
Today, may your wants align with God, so that you may grow ever closer to him. Amen.