“What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36; NASB)
James and John had come to Jesus with an extraordinary, presumptuous request: “Teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask of you.”
It boggles the mind! These two brothers have the temerity to expect Jesus to do whatever they ask. This is what kids might do. But grown men? Disciples of Jesus? Who would put Jesus in such a position? Who would assume that they could make such a demand of the Son of God? Was Jesus just their puppet-on-a-string?
What a marvelous opportunity for Jesus to straighten them out. What a powerful teachable moment, when He could rebuke them and put them in their place. After their breath-taking and brazen request, we hold our breath to hear how Jesus will respond.
And He responds not with criticism or anger, but with a question: “What do you want Me to do for you?”
As I’ve pondered that moment, I’ve felt some indignation. I’m a little shocked by the rudeness and self-centeredness of those two brothers. But as I’ve shaken my head in disbelief, it occurs to me that we frequently do the same ourselves. How often have we prescribed what action Jesus should take? How often have we laid it out for Him, and asked Him to “do whatever we ask of you”?
Perhaps more often than we’d like to admit.
Much of our prayer, even during Lent, can sound like shopping-list stuff. “Here’s so-and-so; please fix their need or problem. And here’s something that we need, please step in and supply…quickly. And don’t forget to help with such-and-such.” And so it goes.
Some have called this a form of moralistic therapeutic deism; the belief among many of us that if we live decent lives, then God should step in and solve our problems. He lives on standby awaiting our instructions, ready to jump into action as soon as we call on Him. Be good, and He’ll do good…on call.
This heretical worldview places humanity at the center of the universe and God serves no real function other than cosmic handyman. The biblical narrative describes a vastly different reality. It places Father/Son/Holy Spirit (not us) at the center of the universe. We exist for His glory and His purposes.
This Jesus Question makes us stop a little. At one level it looks like an invitation to get our way: “What do you want me to do for you?” But perhaps a deeper reflection leads us to understand that we ought to be turning the question back to Jesus: “What would you like us to do for You, today?” A good prayer for this Monday.