What do you want me to do for you? (Mark 10:36, 51)
It seems like a simple enough question. Yet when asked in two different contexts (both in the 10th chapter of Mark) it gets two very different responses, thus revealing its brilliance. For, at its heart, it is a diagnostic question; one that gets right down to what we truly believe. It is a question that bypasses all of our defenses and facades and cuts right to the heart of the matter. What is it that we truly believe with give us the life and the meaning we most deeply long for?
For James and John it was honor. They wanted to sit at Jesus' right and left in his glory. They wanted the spots reserved for the most important people, which shouldn't really surprise us since they, along with all the other disciples, were constantly arguing about which one of them was the greatest. Position, evidently, was really important to them.
Bartimaeus is a different story altogether. He realized that he was at the bottom of the ladder, so he simply begged for mercy. And when asked the same insightful question that Jesus asked James and John, he simply replied, "Lord, I want to see." What an incredible request. If only James and John could've been wise enough to ask for the same. The problem is that they thought they could see already.
I think Mark put these two stories side by side so that we couldn't help but see the contrast. I think he put them side by side so that we couldn't help but ask ourselves. "Who am I more like? What would my answer to that question be?"