In Christ, our identity isn’t tied to our past failures. We’re what we’ve become solely by God’s grace. The recipient of grace in this story is described simply as “a man with leprosy” (Mark 1:40), but Christ’s healing touch would transform this individual’s anonymous suffering into a powerful testimony (see Matthew 8:2). Labeling his problem was simple, and obtaining cleansing from Christ was, in his case, immediate (see Mark 1:42). For some, sobriety comes quickly, instantaneously, as soon as they surrender to Jesus. But for others it is a process.
This one-time leper was cured of his disease by the touch of Jesus. But Jesus wasn’t through with him. There were still some steps to take. Our Lord instructed the man to
– keep silent about the miracle
– show himself to the priest
– offer the gift (sacrifice) required by the Mosaic Law
All these steps tie directly to that law. Jesus was careful to do everything according to the law under which he had been born and now lived. The new covenant, which depended on Jesus’ death and resurrection, was still in the future. Under the law, neither the cured man nor Jesus had the authority to publicly declare a leper cleansed. That was work assigned by God to the priests (see Leviticus 14:2-32). Jesus wouldn’t consider breaking the law, and keeping that particular law would make this man a “testimony to them” (Matthew 8:4)—that is, to the priests who would carry out the required rituals.
Jesus wants to transform us, too, into testimonies as we practice the principles that Christ presented (see 5:1-10) during his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. This man’s healing took place as Jesus “came down from the mountainside” after delivering the great sermon that encapsulates the principles of recovery. These principles, combined with God’s power, change our identity. Rather than being an alcoholic, an addict, or an abuse victim, each of us becomes a testimony to God’s grace.