“What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36, ESV)
This is an interesting question for the omniscient Jesus to ask. Once he asked this in response to James and John, who wanted guaranteed positions of authority when Jesus’ kingdom was finally established. Another time, (Matthew 20:29-43; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43) Jesus asked this of two blind men, who were calling out for him as he passed by.
There is quite a contrast between these two incidents, and Jesus’ answers to them.
In the first instance, Jesus told James and John they really had no idea what they were asking, didn’t immediately grant their request, and used it as an object lesson about true greatness for all his disciples (Matthew 20:22-28).
In the other instance, the blind men were asking for restored sight. Instantly, with “pity” (Matthew 20:34, compassion [KJV]), Jesus granted their request (Matthew 20:34).
Why did Jesus have compassion and give the blind men what they wanted, while denying James and John’s request?
Sometimes, as was the case with the blind men, it is just a matter of asking, and the Lord will gladly grant it. “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2, KJV). “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6).
Sometimes, as was the case with James and John, our heart is not in line with the Lord’s, and such a request is not granted. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures” (James 4:3, KJV).
Not only were their hearts not in line with the Lord’s – to the degree that the other disciples were badly irritated with them – but also, what Jesus knew about their future was not something James and John could possibly understand. And apparently, it wasn’t the right time for them to know. So in that sense, they didn’t receive what they asked.
In another sense, James and John did get what they asked for eventually – it just wasn’t what they imagined, something Jesus alluded to in his answer.
What about us? What do we want from Jesus? Are we dissatisfied? Perhaps we haven’t bothered to ask. Or perhaps what we ask is not in line with God’s will. Or perhaps it’s not the right time. Or perhaps something else is on the horizon. Whatever the case may be, it’s God’s job to know and do the right thing, which he does perfectly.
It’s our job to trust him.