Setting Aside the “Old” Law?

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In a blog post titled “My kind of miracle,” Sarah Reynolds discusses the Bible story of a woman who had been crippled for 18 years. When she entered the synagogue, Jesus saw her and said, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12). She was instantly healed, but Christ’s act of compassion raised the ire of the ruler of the synagogue. He told the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day” (verse 14).

Christ called the man a hypocrite and pointed out how people untied their donkeys to allow them to get a drink on the Sabbath. “So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” (verse 16).

In commenting on this incident, Reynolds states that “the creator of the Sabbath is not bound by the Sabbath.” She goes on to say, “This is the sense in which the old law is set aside under Jesus: the law is still there as a guide, but when compassion, when generosity would break the law, then breaking it is following the new commandment to love God and one another.”

Is this what Jesus was doing? Did Christ “set aside” the fourth commandment, the “old law,” to uphold a “new commandment to love God and one another”? Christ once told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). Did this indicate that the Ten Commandments were to be put on the back burner?

The apostle John once explained to a church leader: “I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another” (2 John 1:5). And certainly, the Old Testament pointed out, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

Christ did not set aside the fourth commandment when He healed the crippled woman on the Sabbath. He was in complete harmony with the purpose of God’s command. Sabbath is a day of restoration and rest. It was the distortion of the Sabbath made by human rules that Jesus opposed. Loving others was a “new” command to those who focused on keeping the letter of the law while missing the essence of the law—to have compassion toward people.

When it is within your ability to relieve suffering on the Sabbath, you will be keeping the fourth commandment in all its fullness when you stop and show kindness.

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