What do you want?

“Then they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Be of good cheer. Rise, he is calling you.’ … So Jesus answered and said to Him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘ Rabboni, that I may receive my sight'” (Mark 10:49, 51).

All people have desires and needs. Some are poorer than others, with greater and more obvious physical needs. Others have needs that are emotional, social, or spiritual, but just as if not more urgent. Some needs are obvious, but not all. In traveling to less developed parts of the world I see many beggars. Some are blind. Others are crippled. Some are simply poor and many are old, without income or family to help. When I see them I am often moved with pity and want to help. But I also recognize that I may not see their true needs, or be able to give that which will genuinely help them.

It is characteristic of human nature that our desires are often not the same as our needs. When one reads of Jesus’ conversation with the blind man at Jericho, we are surprised at his question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Isn’t it obvious that a blind man would want to have his sight given to him? What else could he want more than that?

Jesus showed his perfect knowledge of humanity by his question. We will often have a strong desire for that which is not necessarily our greatest need. Even here it is possible that Jesus may have been somewhat disappointed with the answer he received.

On other occasions when faced with obvious illnesses or deformities the Lord first addressed the plaintiff’s spiritual condition, forgiving their sins, before eventually healing their illness (Mark 2:1-12). It is not unlikely that he hoped this blind man would ask for such a blessing even before asking for relief from his physical burden. If so, we are not told, and Jesus did not refuse to grant him his wish.

This story teaches us about Jesus’ compassion and power, obviously. It also teaches us that we often do not recognize our own greatest needs, nor do we always recognize the needs of others. Like Samuel, we focus on the outer, obvious, appearance, and do not penetrate to the heart and spirit (1 Samuel 16:7).

The blind man at Jericho did not “see” beyond his great handicap. He had heard that Jesus could heal the afflicted. He desired that blessing for himself. But did he also know that Jesus could save one from sin and eternal destruction? Had he heard of the forgiveness of sins which the Lord proclaimed? If he knew or had heard of those things, he at least showed no immediate desire for spiritual blessings.

The gospel accounts do not suggest that Jesus was unhappy with the blind man, and I certainly am not suggesting that he should have been. He healed him willingly, and sent him on his way with a blessing. Yet one cannot help but wonder just what he may have “left on the table” by stopping short of requesting Jesus’ greatest blessing.

The blind man’s circumstances on earth were greatly improved. But what about the life that was to come? Salvation (forgiveness) was there for the asking. Did he ever respond in faith to the Son of God? Certainly he may have done so later. But if he did not, he failed to appreciate his greatest need and asked for something of far less value. Let us not make the same mistake.

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