What Do You Want?

“Following God’s Word” Sermon Series 13

Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.” Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him (Matthew 20:17-34).

Jesus, whom we believe in, came to the earth through one particular nation. So in the eyes of man, He appears as one of the people of that nation. Israel is located in the Palestinian region near the Mediterranean. A person I know asked this question when I first started my faith life. “Why are you following the religion of Israelis when Korea also has a religion? We have Dangun, but why do you follow Jesus?” He thought that Jesus was a man of Israel because He came to Israel. He regarded Jesus as the god that the Israelites believed in.

However, Jesus, whom we believe in, is the Son of God who created heaven and earth, not just Jesus of the Israelites. It was God who wanted to give us something. And giving us that was like planting a seed. For example, there is an orchard full of apple trees. A farmer who wants to build an orchard plants apple trees. He wants to grow young apple trees and cultivate them. He wants to plant and grow trees from a seedling. But he does not take the seed and plant it in the orchard directly. He first plants it in a small pot. Once it grows into a young seedling of a certain size, he then takes it and plants it in the orchard. But the place the seed gets planted at first is a small pot. The farmer has no choice but to use a small pot. However, what the farmer is after is not the pot or to profit from the pot. Instead, it is to fill the whole orchard with that tree.

In the same way, when God wanted to give something to mankind, He chose one nation out of all the people on earth. And what He revealed through that one nation, He wants all nations to possess now. Hence we should seek what He gave. When we come before God, that is what we are trying to obtain – that which God gave us. However, many people seek what God has not even given. Of course, God does give those things too, but they are given to help us for that time being only. There is something else that God wants to give us forever, yet people are indifferent to that and only seek what they want.

The part of the Bible we read is the scene when Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. Matthew 20 is towards the end of the Book of Matthew. For what reason was Jesus going up to Jerusalem? It was for Him to die. And He called His twelve disciples aside and said, “I will be put into the hands of the high priests and teachers of the Law, and they will be determined to kill me. They will hand me over to Gentiles and finally have me crucified”. He spoke to them of His death.

It was a grim moment. Even if the disciples were in tears, they would not feel comforted. But did the disciples even understand what Jesus said? Did they understand or not? They did not. They did not understand what He meant when He said He was going to die. Their hearts were only filled with the yearning for the Messiah. Who is the Messiah that they were waiting for? They had something that they were after. And they believed that Jesus was the one they were waiting for.

The people of Israel were all alike, waiting for a king like King David to appear again. Throughout the history of Israel, it was during King David’s reign that Israel was the richest and most powerful. The nation was so powerful at that time that its influence was all over the nearby regions as well as Egypt. And stretching from east to north, Israel was a renowned nation so that even during Solomon’s reign in the next generation, people from Ethiopia of Africa came to see the beauty of Israel after hearing about Israel.

Hence in the heart of the Israelites was a longing for King David. Because after David died, the nation started to plunge gradually. After the time of King Solomon, the nation was divided into two – north and south – just like Korea. The ten tribes that moved up north perished first and later, the south in Jerusalem also fell. Since then, they have been invaded by foreign countries, first by Babylon, which is Iraq today. They were ruled by Iraq for some time. And just when they thought it was going to get better, Greece dominated them, and they became a Greek empire, that is, Greece of today. But at least they had some relief during that time because the Greek colonial policy was about giving freedom and respecting their culture. So they had some relief for the time being, but after that, the Roman Empire arose and took over them. However, the Romans ruled them with a powerful military force, so the Israelites suffered insults and humiliation during that time.

Hence they were longing and yearning for the return of the times of David’s reign. And they were thinking, “when would he come? When would a savior like David come? When is the king coming who will restore our nation?” It was then that Jesus appeared. Thus some people insisted that Jesus was the king they were waiting for. At first, they were not sure. Yet they saw the works He was doing which certainly were not common – He fed ten thousand people with five loaves of bread.

After the people saw such incredible things, they began to think. “If He stays with us, we wouldn’t have to worry about military supplies.” Since they heard that Jesus walked on water to reach the boat and even calmed the waves, the seas and the winds with a command, they thought, “He definitely can liberate our nation from the Romans’ tyranny! If He can go and raise the flag in Jerusalem as our leader, we, full of love and zeal for our nation will go after the Romans and regain our independence!” They were filled with such anticipation.

As the disciples were following Jesus, they heard Him say, “The kingdom of God! The kingdom of God!” Yet they did not understand that as the kingdom of heaven, which we know, but as the restoration of David’s kingdom in Jerusalem by defeating the Romans. Hence they were picturing the kingdom of Israel on earth. So when Jesus said, “Let us go. I am about to die!” the people that followed were not saddened, but instead, they were excited. They mistook Jesus’ words as though He was saying, “Ok, I am ready to fight unto death!” because He said, “I am going to die!” That is why Peter, who heard Him, said, “Lord, I will go with you even to death. I will also fight unto death!” Jesus said, “I will have to go to die!” But if we read the Book of Luke, we can see how Jesus was in tears as He looked toward Jerusalem. It was a grim moment. Jesus was actually ready to die. But the disciples thought Jesus was reaffirming His resolution with tears before heading into the decisive battle.

Probably the disciples that followed Jesus would have looked like this. If Jesus was going ahead, they would have followed behind in this manner. They probably followed Jesus with pompous air and proud faces. When Jesus said He was going to die in Jerusalem, a woman came to see Him. It was the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Zebedee’s sons were John and James. They were brothers. They were also called sons of thunder because they had a fiery temper. Their mother came to Jesus, bowing. He asked her, “What is it you want?” He asked this very question, “What do you want?” Their mother’s reply was, “Let one of my sons sit on Your right and the other on Your left in Your kingdom when You restore the kingdom.” In other words, let one of them be the prime minister and the other deputy prime minister. To put it simply, she was saying, “When you come into power, let my sons be prime minister and deputy prime minister”.

When Jesus heard that, He said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles Lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant!” Then He asked, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” And the disciples with Him confidently answered, “We are able.” The cup here refers to the suffering that God gave Jesus. The sacrifice He must make on the cross. It is His death. So He was actually asking them, “Are you able to die?” But they did not even understand Him and answered, “We are able.” Even Jesus did not want to drink that cup. He prayed to God to take the cup from Him. Yet the disciples were saying that they could drink this cup. So Jesus said, “Whether you drink this cup or not is up to you, but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.” If you are able to take this, it would be great. But if you cannot, it would be impossible to sit on His left or right.

After He said this, He sent her away. And what do you think the other ten disciples who later heard about this felt? “So you two intended to be His right-hand man in secret? What about us?” And they were indignant. A quarrel arose. What did we say the Lord was going up to do at Jerusalem? He was going to die to sacrifice Himself. At this moment, where He was about to die, the disciples were fighting each other about who would sit on the right and left of the Lord. Thus there was such a gap between the Lord and the disciples. There was a significant difference between what the Lord knew and what the disciples knew. Though they followed Him for three years and listened to His word, the kingdom of God they ultimately wanted was to hold power on earth. This was the level of knowledge the disciples had of the Lord at that time.

Now Jesus had left Jericho and was drawing closer to Jerusalem. As He set off for Jerusalem, a great crowd began to follow Him. Why were they following Him? To them, it was the king’s grand entrance. Once He enters Jerusalem, nobody knows what could happen. The disciples followed behind Him, proudly shrugging their shoulders. Also, many people followed behind them. They were curious but also marvelled and thought, “Hey, watch out! It’s the end for you Romans! He is going to bring a strong wind and flip you upside down. When we are hungry, He will feed us all with one loaf of bread! The Roman Empire is at its end! Like the prophets of old, He will have fire sent down from heaven and burn all of you up!” This was their attitude.

Since many people were crowing around Him, He could not be seen very well. But just as He was passing, there were some blind men nearby. And two blind men suddenly called out to Jesus. As everyone knew very well, Jesus was a descendant of David who would succeed David. Hence the blind men called out saying, “Jesus, Son of David!” For these people, it was a decisive moment. They never had Jesus walk past them. But at that moment, Jesus was going past in front of them. The people all believed that Jesus would enter to seize power and become king. Hence for them, their future king, their future president, was passing in front of them at that moment.

These two men had suffered a great deal in their life. They are blind, so what could they possibly do for a living? How can they make a living? We can conjecture this from their words when they say, “Have pity on us!” They said, “Take pity on us!” This is something that beggars always say habitually. They say, “Take pity on me! Have pity on me!” The people think they were asking for?  They probably assumed they were asking for money. For the people, the king was making his grand entrance, yet these beggars dared to beg him for some change. So they rebuked the two men to be quiet.

But these two beggars did not stop but called all the louder. “Have pity on us! Have pity on us!” They were desperate because if they missed this chance, they would never see Him again. So they shouted even louder. Even if there were hundreds and thousands of people, they cried, “Have pity on us! Take pity on us!” Finally, their cry reached Jesus’ ears. And He told men to bring them to Him. So the two blind men stood before Jesus.

At that time, Jesus asked again. Remember how He asked His disciples earlier what they wanted? Now He was asking the same question to these men. “What is it you want?” Who did they think Jesus was? If they had regarded Jesus the same as everybody else did – that He was going to be their future king or president, what would they have answered when Jesus asked, “What do you want?” They would have said something like, “We’ve been begging on this road for ten years. But now our throats are hurting, and we can’t beg as well as we used to. Mr. President, please show more support for the welfare of the disabled. Please hand out free walking sticks for the blind! Please allow us pensions every month! Help us so that we can go nearer to the city to beg! Please implement measures to support people like us or announce an enforcement ordinance”. If they were of the same mind as the disciples and the many people following Jesus, they would have deemed Him to be their next king and made requests to the king.

However, the answer that came from the blind men was remarkable. What did they say? “We want to see!” They were blind, and they requested that they could see. Who did they see Jesus as? To open someone’s eyes, to make the blind see again, is certainly not a thing an ordinary person can do. Actually, it is impossible. These men were blind from birth and lived tough life all those years. So can anyone make them see it again? It is impossible. Nobody believes that is possible. On another occasion, Jesus opened the eyes of another blind man, but as soon as his eyes were opened, Jesus moved away to another place. So when people found him, they asked, “Who made your eyes open? Who opened your eyes?” And the blind man answered, “Don’t you people know? Who is able to open the eyes of a blind? No one except God can open the eyes of a blind!” That is exactly right. When this blind man Bartimaeus said, “I want to see!” he recognized Jesus as one who is equal to God.

All the other people deemed Jesus as their future ruling king, and they longed for the restoration of their nation Israel. That is, they were picturing themselves taking back Jerusalem and driving out the Roman soldiers. Furthermore, John and James were thinking of becoming the president and vice president to rule the nation. While everyone else was dreaming about this, these blind men had this faith. We do not know where they got the inspiration from, but they requested of Jesus, “We want to see!” Jesus was so joyful. At the same time, He was disturbed. He was grieved. Why? Because it was so hard to find people with faith! Therefore He took them and said to them, “According to your faith, may it be done!” And their eyes were opened! Hallelujah!

The blind man Bartimaeus believed Jesus as God and made such a request. Hence his story is written in the Bible. There are many records of Jesus healing the sick and opening the eyes of the blind. Yet this story in Matthew 20 is not talking about a miracle that was done. Why would the story of another blind man being healed be written here in this momentous time when Jesus is entering Jerusalem to carry out such an important mission? This was not written to teach about healing but because of this man’s incredible faith. He believed Jesus to be God and therefore requested something that could only be requested from God.

As you come to church, you probably have something you want, don’t you? “Well, I am getting nowhere with job hunting. I want to believe in God and find a good job!” This is something you can ask of the president. People with such hopes may be disappointed after coming to church. Why? Because that is not what God wants for them. Of course, He can help them in those aspects, too, but He may not. However, that which only God can give us is what we need to seed. Some people come to church seeking a change in their relationship with their husbands. And since they came to church, they may meet God. Nevertheless, one cannot continue seeking God with only those goals. God is able to provide answers to all of our problems. However, there is something God wants to give us. And God will pay great attention to whoever seeks that.

At church, you need to seek what God wants to give, that which God can give an abundance of. What is most important, above all, is that your spirit gets saved from sin and has eternal life. This is a power we cannot find anywhere in this world. Even the president cannot give us. It is not the power of this world. Only God can save you. Jesus Christ is your one and only Savior. I bless you in Jesus’ name to seek that which only God can give you.

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center