A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.Mark 1:40 (NLT)
This story may not ring true with many of us. There are few of us who find our lives in such a state that we beg for a change. Sure, we might whine or complain. We will carp and cavil. We will moan and grumble. But rarely do we beg.
So imagine how bad this man's life must be to have to get down on his knees and beg for a change. He's outcast from his family and the community. His skin disease has resulted in a loss of livelihood and location. The life he once knew is now gone and he has only one option left.
Not only is he begging for restoration, he's asking for the better nature of Jesus to grant this wish. "If you are willing..." It's as if he's approached others before and they weren't willing. They wouldn't give him a second look or a second chance.
If you've worked with the homeless, the impoverished, or the destitute, you might have a sense of how this man feels. Living on the edges, few people look twice.
You know this is true if you've ever had to stop at an intersection where a pan-handler is holding a sign and asking for money. You pull up just as far as possible so you are beyond eye contact, right? You look straight ahead. You act busy. You adjust the radio. Anything to avoid looking the man or woman in the eye. We can't relate and have no desire to. We're sure they are hustling. We're convinced that they are people who are simply taking advantage of people and don't want to work for a living like we do. But what if we're wrong? What if they really are living a life of desperation and this is their last resort?
Now put that same person in front of Jesus, who looks down, hears the begging, is moved with compassion and replies, "I am willing."
As the body of Christ, are we any less willing to help those who live desperate lives? Do we really need to make them beg?