When it came to the final hours of Jesus’ ministry, and prior to His crucifixion, Matthew recorded the true motives of the religious leaders. Even the unbelieving Pilate to whom the religious leaders delivered Jesus, knew their motives: “For he knew that the chief priests had delivered Him because of envy” (Mk 15:10; see Mt 27:18). The situation at the time of the crucifixion was as it was when Paul stood before resistent Jews in Antioch of Pisidia: “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy. And contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed those things that were spoken by Paul” (At 13:45). The religious leaders of the day behaved as was stated by Aeschylus: “No man is a complete failure until he begins disliking men who succeed.”
If the multitudes believed that Jesus was truly the Messiah, then the bank accounts of the religious leadership would be emptied. The Sinai law would be nailed to the cross, and thus the obligation of the people to contribute to the priests would be nullified (Cl 2:14). In order not to send their “stock market” into a crash, the priests and Pharisees knew that Jesus had to go.
Paul identified envy as a work of the flesh (Gl 5:21; see 1 Tm 6:4; Ti 3:3). It was because of this work of the flesh that Joseph’s brothers sold him into captivity (Gn 37:11). These brothers allowed envy to destroy their love for their own brother, for their envy overpowered their love (See 1 Co 13:4). Even out of envy some preached Christ in Rome in order to stir up animosity against Paul (Ph 1:15). Envy is the motivation for doing all sorts of evil things in order to accomplish one’s own selfish goals (Js 3:14). Because the religious leaders of Jesus’ day envied Him, they were moved with evil motives to have Him removed from their midst.
We can be sure of one thing in reference to the attitude of envy. Where there is envy, there is always confusion and the implementation of evil works. James concluded, “For where envy and strife exist, there is confusion and every evil work” (Js 3:16). Envy produced an evil work by sending Jesus to the cross. It will do the same today.
[See you tomorrow.]