Jesus' healing of man's withered hand on the Sabbath marks the third time that He quarreled with the Pharisees over “breaking the Sabbath.” However, the real issue did not truly have to do with the Sabbath. In reality, this conflict was just a “reason to accuse Jesus” (Matthew 12:10) and grounds for a loaded question in an attempt to “bait Jesus into acting in such a way that they could produce evidence that he was Sabbath breaker” (Howell, 83). In short, “the Pharisees want a 'wrong' answer from Jesus” (Nolland, 487), for if they could prove that Christ violated their human rules, which they misconstrued as God's law, then by extension He was somebody they could write off and not have to listen to.
The right answer to the Pharisees' question regarding the healing would have been to wait since the man's affliction was not life threatening. Since “for the Pharisees, to comply with Sabbath regulations was more important that healing the person with the withered hand (he could seek healing on another day” (Nolland, 487). However, Jesus reframed their question in moral rather than legal terms to reveal their calloused hearts since they apparently could no longer empathize with the suffering of others having been blinded by judgmental zeal for their external standards (Howell, 83). Jesus drives His point home, that they care more for compliance to regulations than compassion for humans, by postulating an endangered sheep on the Sabbath using the Greek “ou)xi/ for the negative suggest[ing] a comfortable assumption that the hearers will expect everyone in such a situation to retrieve the sheep” (Nolland, 488). Jesus conclusion was to practice what He preached healing the man's hand to show that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).