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More than we expect

More than we expect

“What do you want me to do for you?”

I read the question this morning in Matthew 20, and it walks with me in downtown Charlotte in the early evening sun. It’s a startlingly direct question from Jesus to two blind men. Tonight, I’m not only thinking about that narrative as I look at the art of this city, but wondering how I would answer for myself.

Let’s dig into the story a bit. Jesus leaves Jericho with a large crowd of people heading to Jerusalem for the Passover. There’s excitement, noise, commotion. Above all this, the voice of two men can be heard, shouting for Jesus’s attention:

The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

 “Lord,” they answered, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” (Matt. 20:31-33)

I’ve always wondered about the question. Isn’t it obvious what they want? But I missed the probability that their blindness made them beggars. So, Jesus could be asking to see how high they’ve set their desire: momentary help or lifelong transformation. Their answer is determined by their faith in his power and in his willingness to help.

“Moved by compassion” (vs. 34), Jesus touches their eyes. But Matthew uses a different word than the more biological “eyes” of their request. (That’s the word from which we get ophthalmic.) This word is a more poetic description of eyes, implying that he is opening the eyes of their souls as well.

This is what grips me about Jesus in this story. He gives them far more than they ask for. They want their life back. He gives them that, and life into eternity.

I let the Jesus’s question land on me. What do you want me to do for you? Standing before a fountain in a park, watching the water cascade in a rippling sheet, I know my request. Lord, bless others through me – using my creative gifts whenever possible to let your goodness and grace overflow into the lives of people around me, whether they be long-term friends or brief interactions.

I mean this in general. Jesus took it to mean within the next couple blocks.

I’m walking back to the hotel when I hear a woman’s voice by my side. “How tall are you?” she asks. I turn to find a thin, young woman in disheveled clothes walking next to me. I know what happens next: she’ll ask for money. Suddenly Jesus’s question becomes mine.

But she anticipates my question, “Can you buy me something to eat?”

I agree, and as we walk to a nearby food truck, I ask for her story. What she tells me isn’t the whole truth. The reason for her homelessness – most likely addiction – is left out. I buy her some food but before she leaves, I stand in front of her, and our eyes meet.

I tell her about how Jesus loves her. And that he has the power and the intent to change her life. Then I ask her if I can pray for her. She agrees, I pray, and include a mention of how Jesus gave the blind men more than they asked for.

As I walk away, I feel so inadequate to meet her need. She asked for food, but she needs the bread of life.

But I am surprised at the appearance of this unexpected exchange. I shouldn’t be.

Jesus’s answer to our longings is always deeper and more fulfilling (and often more immediate!) than what we had in mind.

Jesus, your gifts are always greater than what we had in mind. They also come in ways that we don’t expect. But we love you for that, too, since each surprise gives us a glimpse of the greatness of your heart and vision.

Reader: How would you answer Jesus’s question?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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