The Most Exciting Question Jesus Asks Us

M.M. O'Keefe
Apr 20 · 6 min read

I heard a provocative sermon series a few years ago on “Questions Jesus Asked.”

The most surprising and exciting question was this: “What do YOU Want?”

Jesus asks it twice in the gospels:

  • “What do you want?” (John 1:38, italics added)
  • “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32; Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41)

Most people think Jesus is in the ordering-people-around business. Christianity is about rules and commands and duties and punishment.

But when Jesus asks what we want him to do for us, as he did in the gospels, we see him in a different light, and not just on Easter Sunday.

With 7.7 billion people in the world, crises all over the place and the heavens to oversee, does God really care about what you or I want? Is Jesus asking us this question today or was it just for Bible times?

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer was a 16th-century Protestant theologian who wrote The Book of Common Prayer, still used by Anglicans today. When Catholic “Bloody” Mary I took the throne, Cranmer went on trial for treason and heresy. Imprisoned for over two years and under pressure from Catholic authorities, he finally made several written recantations of his Protestant beliefs.

Disgusted with himself, he renounced what he had signed with his own hand and stated that hand should be burned first on the day of his martyrdom. He got what he wanted.

Cranmer burns his hand first. Original source: Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 1780

As flames drew around him, Cranmer placed his hand into the heart of the fire, calling it “that unworthy hand.” His dying words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit …; I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

Do you want to be burned for your beliefs, starting with your hand? I seriously doubt it. So what’s the point?

I’m “a top writer” on Medium in “history” and have to keep my ratings up.

It also brings me back to this question about wanting.

Theologian John Ashley Null summarized the writings of Cranmer with this quote:

“What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.”

I carry a small notebook and pen with me to church, just in case. When I heard this sermon, I furiously wrote in stream-of-consciousness fashion, head down, what I wanted Jesus to do for me. Others stood to sing. I kept writing.

Here is my list, not necessarily in order of importance, but the order I scribbled it on my notebook:

1. To love and provide for my family.

2. To see my son fulfilled in his career and equally yoked spiritually to a wife who loves him as he is.

3. To lead others closer to Christ.

4. To use my communication gifts to a) encourage fathers in the raising of their sons b) encourage men and women in midlife career transitions.

5. To grow in a nurturing, sensitive, and calm love of my wife.

6. To love and guide my daughter in her strengths and weaknesses, with lots of laughter along the way.

7. To have authentic, challenging and fun relationships with other Christian men.

8. To see my youngest son prosper in his marriage, ministry, career, family and friendships.

9. To experience physical vitality and mental sharpness.

10. To have fun with regularity, whether that be golf, travel, playing games, etc.

11. To find times of quiet and solitude to hear from God and renew my soul.

12. To be active and authentic, constantly knowing and being known, in our local church and beyond.

13. To receive affirmation for contributions on my “day job,” in my personal writing and in my ministry.

I don’t like ending lists on a “13.” I’m tempted to edit that last one out, which sounds vain and self-serving anyway. For now, let’s leave it there because, hey, I was just being honest.

On a recent Rainy-Day-on-Mondays-Always-Get-Me-Down (non-boomers check reference here: Nearly 25 million views!), I was feeling frustrated about what I chronically perceive to be my lack of important achievements.

Sometimes it feels like I keep jumping and jumping and jumping at a track-and-field meet but can’t clear the bar. Clang. There it goes again.

What’s the bar? Who sets it? Is it the right height? Am I competing in the right event? Should I consider the pole vault, not the high jump? Maybe another sport or activity altogether?

Those were good questions left for another day.

On this blue Monday, I wasn’t in the mood. Somehow I found that old notebook rummaging through my piles. I read the date: 2014.

I reviewed my 13 wants and assessed what had materialized in five years.

What I saw blew me away.

An unreserved “YES” on every “want!” We’re talking 13 out of 13, a batting average of 1.000. As a kid, I never scored like that, not even with Santa Claus during that year when I was barely naughty and mostly nice.

Do you ever ask God for something and forget about it? Then, maybe weeks, months or years later, it hits you: “Hey, I prayed about that and stuff really happened. ”

Uber-achievers like Tony Robbins wouldn’t be impressed. But there it was, 13 for 13 on major goals in my life. Jesus carried me to places I could not go by myself and, here’s the kicker, I didn’t even realize it was happening.

I recalled the beloved (some say hokey) Christian poem, “Footsteps in the Sand.”

The climactic line in the famous poem says this: “It was then that I carried you.” Photo by Marc Bustier on Unsplash

Jesus cares about what we want like a father cares for a son or daughter. What’s more, he works behind the scene, like a cook in a high-end restaurant, eager to delight beyond expectations, no tip expected.

Don’t get me wrong. God is not a genie in a bottle making our every selfish wish his command. But when we delight in Him he delights in us.

“Delight yourself in The Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” — Psalm 37:4.

So …. what DO you want Jesus to do for you?

You knew it was coming.

I’m not sure Jesus cares about SMART goals but if that’s your thing, go ahead and make it Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. He is the original creator of BHAGs: so Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals encouraged. I have no idea if He is into Gantt charts (I’m not). But every project he manages gets completed on time and with available resources.

If you are a parent, pose the Jesus question to your son or daughter. Wait for a squirm, or maybe a smile.

Ask your spouse and your best friend. Take a risk and ask a co-worker (not your boss). This is what some call “a powerful question.”

Most important, ask yourself the question and record your gut-level, honest answers without thinking it through too much. Whatever comes to mind. File it away someplace.

A few years from now, compare your list to your present reality.

You might be surprised to see some footprints in the sand.

M.M. O'Keefe

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I write about faith, fathers, history, sports & work. I coach mid-life professionals to confidently navigate their careers. See

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