"What do you want?"
There are so many different ways to read the words of that question. It can be spoken in the tone of a parent asking a precious child what would bless them, or with the drone of a bored cashier who would rather not be bothered. It is the terse expression of an annoyed coworker, or the heartfelt request of someone who really cares. At its best, it is a searching question aimed at revealing motive and desire.
In the Gospel of Luke, we find the story of Jesus interacting with a blind beggar just outside of Jericho. The man is seeking a touch from the Lord as he passes by, yet Jesus asks the man, "What do you want me to do for you?"
At first glance, we might think to ourselves, "Come on, Jesus, don't you know what he wants? Can't you see that he can't see? Isn't his need obvious? Why would you ask such a question?" The man, however, responds directly to the question, "I want to see!" and with this declaration, Jesus heals him.
Why would Jesus ask such an obvious question to someone with such a recognizable need? If others knew his need, wouldn't the Son of God be able to perceive it as well? Maybe, there is a deeper meaning to be found in Jesus' request. Maybe, Jesus had a bigger purpose in mind.
I once heard Joseph Garlington, a pastor from Pittsburgh say, "When God asks you a question, he isn't looking for information." God is not lacking understanding or information, but we might be. We might not have a clear image of what we are seeking, but God does. And that is why we need a clarifying question.
Jesus was not oblivious to the beggar's need, but he wanted him to identify it. He invited him to become a part of the miracle by clarifying his desire. The man paused, even if only for a moment, to consider his need and to ask specifically for Jesus to meet it. Maybe, we need to do likewise.
In our home, we often have conversations that go something like this:
"Let's go out for dinner."
"Okay, what do you want to eat?"
"I don't know..."
It can be very easy to know you want something, but not know what that something is. Likewise, most of us know we need something from Jesus in our lives, but the real nature of just what that need is often eludes us. It is in these moments, that we too, can hear Jesus' question, "What do you want me to do for you?" What, specifically, are we seeking from him? He already knows what we need, but this is our opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to show us our real need so that we can present it to God and receive our answer.
Too many times I've said, "God, fix it," or, "God forgive me." with no idea what I wanted God to do, or what God might be asking me to do. It is not that God will not answer such requests, but God is so much more than a genie in a bottle, there to grant our wishes. God is a loving friend who wants to share the journey with us.
So, the question stands, not as an expression of ignorance, but as an invitation to share our needs, our requests, our very selves with God. It is an opportunity to see our real need more clearly and to see who Jesus is in the midst of our need.
As the Lord journeys with us, perhaps he is asking us, "what do you want me to do for you?" if that is his question, what is your answer?