What Do You Want Me to Do For You?”
When I was younger, I would often hear or imagine some version of the “If you could ask God any question in the world, what would it be?” I had a long list. What’s the point of angels? What’s with all the killing in the OT? How old will I be in heaven? Did Methuselah really live for almost a millennium? What was the point of the flood if wickedness has remained on the earth ever since? How did Jesus walk through the door after his resurrection, yet Thomas could still touch him? How did you make something from nothing? Why should we pray if you already know everything? How can you be everywhere at the same time? Why did Eve take the fruit… My list could have filled a book. Or a blog.
This morning, however, I am thinking about a question that went in the other direction. I am thinking of Mark 10, where Jesus asks famously asks blind Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus wants to see, of course, and Jesus honours this request: “Go; your faith has made you well.” The story is well-known, of course, and is inspiring and wonderful and all that.
But what a question to be asked by Jesus! What do you want me to do for you?
How we would love for the question to be put to us! How I would love for the question to be put to me! Ryan, just what is it that you want me to do for you? Here’s how I might respond.
Well, Jesus, how very kind of you to ask. I have a rather long list, I’m afraid—a God-sized list, if you will. And I want you to do things for more than just me, which will surely please you, I know. For starters, I want you to get rid of earthquakes and other “natural” disasters. There is—or at least there shouldn’t be!—anything “natural” about the earth heaving and lurching and destroying the lives of countless vulnerable human beings. It’s difficult to imagine a world where physical laws operate differently than they do on this planet, and it may even seem a bit naïve and childish to say, “change things so that natural forces cease to wreak such incalculable destruction,” but you are God incarnate and I am not, and this is what I want you to do for me.
Also, I would like for you to do something about cancer and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and the countless other wasting diseases that ravage precious human lives. Surely you see the effect that these things have upon your children—particular those whose lives have already borne such suffering. Blindness and leprosy seemed no match for your touch, after all, and I wonder if we might have a bit of that on a larger scale. A global scale, let’s say. It probably seems a bit foolish to say, “Give me a world with no more sickness and death,” but, well, you asked what I wanted you to do. I’m just being honest.
While you’re doling out miracles, I would very much like it if you could tweak things a little in the grey matter inside human skulls and make us less prone to violence and the greedy abuse of power. I would like no more racist cops and riots and residential schools and religion/ideology-driven violence. I would also like no more war. There have always been wars and rumours of war, I know, and it seems laughably absurd that there could ever be global peace, but there’s all this “swords into plowshares” and “spears into pruning hooks” language in the Bible, and, well, perhaps you could just advance the timeline a bit on all that? God knows… um, I mean you know we could all use it! Yes, this is certainly what I want you to do for me.
And while you’re fiddling around inside our heads, I would like for you to make us all a bit more generally selfless and loving, a bit more willing to treat one another the way we would like to be treated, no matter the colour of our skin or the shape of our views or the nature of our beliefs. This one seems pretty basic, I think—not nearly as hard as getting rid of earthquakes and war. And yet think of how many relationships could be preserved, how many marriages saved, how many suicides prevented, how many institutions preserved, how many historical wounds healed? Yes. This definitely goes on the “what I want you to do for me” list.
That’s just a start, of course, dear Jesus. I’m sure I’ll think of more when I walk out the door or read the paper. And I realize that all of this sounds like little more than a kind of mushy “make all the bad stuff in the world go away…” And I realize that character can be forged in suffering, and that all of our wanting and longing are supposed to find expression in how we live in the world, and that there is nothing about the human experience that is foreign to you, and that you, too, suffered incredibly, bearing the full weight of all our sin and stupidity. Yes, I know all this.
But all of this is actually what I want you to do. Because we can’t. I can’t, at any rate. And you did ask.