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How was healing on the Sabbath considered “work”?

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. Mark 3:1-4

            The Jewish leaders had a list of things they considered “work.”  They overemphasized the idea of Sabbath rest.  While they thought it was fine to help a sheep which fell into a hole, they didn’t think healing a lame man was lawful.  Work, for them, was any effort put towards something that wasn’t life or death.  While it was fine for them to walk around with Jesus on the Sabbath (to spy on him), they felt healing the suffering broke that law.  They probably thought healing any other day of the week was okay, but healing on the Sabbath went too far.