Greed, pettiness, and jealousy characterize the opponents of Jesus whom we read about in John 12:1–11. We have already seen the greed of Judas, as evident in his complaint about Mary’s anointing of Jesus as recorded in verses 1–8. Judas complained about the lavish gift, pretending to want to sell the perfume in order to help the poor when he really coveted the funds that could be gained for himself.
Pettiness and jealousy are evident in the enemies of our Lord that we read about in today’s passage. While Jesus is in Bethany, John tells us, a large crowd of Jews comes to see Him. Remember that Jesus is at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany, located about two miles outside of Jerusalem (vv. 1–2). Since the Passover is at hand, many of these Jews are likely pilgrims who live elsewhere but have come to the Holy City in order to celebrate the feast. They have heard of the raising of Lazarus, and they have come to see him in the flesh as well as to see the One who brought him back to life (v. 9).
John 12:10–11 gives us further information that because of Lazarus, many of these Jewish visitors are believing in Jesus. The evident miracle has convinced them that Jesus has been sent by God, with the result that many of them are “going away” from the chief priests. Essentially, this is a reference to religious conversion. John wants us to know that Lazarus’ resurrection has prompted many of the Jews to turn from the religion represented by the chief priests and other Jewish religious authorities to the teaching and lordship of Christ. They have moved from the legalistic, Scripture-obscuring teachings of the Sadducees and the Pharisees and have embraced the gospel about Christ that is proclaimed by Christ.
The pettiness and jealousy of the religious leaders is seen in their response to this phenomenon. Instead of being grateful that God is working in their midst and that Lazarus, their fellow Jew, is alive again, they plot to put Lazarus to death (vv. 10–11). Matthew Henry labels this “an instance of the most brutish rage that could be,” and the evidence certainly bears this out. Petty jealousy has so consumed the religious authorities that they have been reduced, as it were, to an animalistic state of violence. They have lost converts and they blame not themselves but rather the man whom Jesus has healed. Such ire is wicked indeed.