Mark 1:40-42 NASB
And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
This story of Jesus and the leper is one full of spiritually significant aspects. One of the most obvious parts to the story is the state of mind of the person who interacts with The Lord. The leper is clearly desperate, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. His disease was viewed by the society of his day as particularly undesirable due to it being painful, disfiguring and contagious. Because there wasn’t a known cure in antiquity, it would almost certainly give rise to hopelessness as well.
Desperation signals hope
Life can be described as a matrix of choices. Every day, even every hour, we are all presented with decisions that are, either on an individual or cumulative basis, very impactful. For this reason there is some hope to be gained from a sense of anxious discomfort. If someone didn’t believe things could change, why be worried about it on any level?
It is pretty clear that the leprous man in Mark 1 had a sense that his situation could change. We have no idea how long he was considering such a possibility, but the answer probably lies in some change that occurred in his present circumstances. The world and its pessimism about his situation wasn’t different, but something new had entered his life. He saw Jesus and very quickly hope sprang up in this man that there was a new possibility for his future.
Hope is something that ALL Christians must keep at the forefront of their lives. 1 Corinthians 13:13 instructs us to remain perpetually in the Hope of Christ. While circumstances speak the opposite, there is always a means for change found through a relationship with Jesus. Consider these verses that address some commonly discouraging situations that people face:
It doesn’t matter how long we have struggled with a problem!
Mark 9:21-29 NASB
And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.  It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”  And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”  Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”  When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”  After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!”  But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.  When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?”  And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”
It doesn’t matter how pessimistic the message is from contemporary society!
John 16:32-33 NASB
“Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.  These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Even when we have screwed up, Christ is there for us!
2 Timothy 2:13 NASB
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
There is no problem that can’t be overcome by His Power!
Revelation 1:12-18 NASB
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;  and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.  His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.  His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.  In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.  When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,  and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
The Leper of Mark 1 had seen the Jesus that is represented in these scriptures. No matter how bleak his situation appeared, he knew in his heart that a new possibility was right there in front of him!
Deception that can proceed from choice
Having choices can present a self determined path. One where we try to make a change and turn first to ourselves. This is often celebrated and encouraged because it puts the onus on our own ability and strength. But what happens when we encounter a situation where we aren’t enough? Nothing is more discouraging than giving one’s best effort only to come up short. Our self reliance can become a trap that leads to a deeper place of despair than the one we are trying to escape. We can’t overcome crises on our own any more than we can prevent all of our difficulties in the first place. Proverbs 3:5-8 NASB tells us,
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.
Fortunately, our leper understood this wisdom. Rather than rush headlong off the cliff of his own understanding and strength, he engaged The Lord for his answer!
Deliverance realized when the nature of Jesus is revealed
It is difficult to depend on someone else for something that we badly want to see happen. The good news about Jesus is that He wants to help us more than we want to be helped.
The response of Jesus to this man in Mark 1:41 NASB is underrated:
Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”
The phrase moved with compassion isn’t just a superficial, emotional response. It speaks of a longing that came from deep within Christ. His heartfelt desire to deliver this man was indicative of a part of the character of Jesus. As soon as he understood the love that God had for him, his heart was positioned for a change.
While He is willing, remember that we must be too! Once we get past the place of looking at our gloomy predicament and see Christ’s heart to set us free, we have to be open to His solution. In the case of the leper, his healing was also a miracle, occuring in an instant. In other cases, like the blind man in Mark 8:22-26 or the nobleman’s son in John 4:52, healing/transformation/or change was marked by a process that took more than a singular instance. It is likely that we can’t understand everything involved with the difficulties that we face, but we can trust Him to know and be willing to follow His prescribed path for redemption.
Considering the desperation in our world
When I look at the state of the world I know, USA, Africa, Europe, it is trapped in the downward spiral that results from attempting to solve problems through knowledge alone. Some estimates place the overall growth in the knowledge of mankind steeply increasing from doubling at a rate of every century at the beginning of the 1900’s to currently doubling every day! Despite this exponential rise, there are tons of well meaning, vocal proponents for change that see the opposite of what they want resulting from their protestations. This further results in an increasing number of people who think things will never change. They are proceeding more deeply into the deception, chaos and disorder that they have come to believe is inevitable. A different path must be made known.
With the magnification of the chaos in the world, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Remember the basic charge of Christ to His followers when He walked the earth:
Matthew 5:13-16 NASB
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
It all starts with the individual confronting his own difficulty and/or burden with the simplicity of The Leper. A single Christian has a light, or influence, that the world cannot ignore. We must purpose on an individual basis, to respond to our own challenges and difficulties by first seeking The Lord’s guidance. His healing is contagious and before we know it, our world won’t be able to deny it!