It appears that a meeting of the Sanhedrin council is gathered to determine what should be done with Jesus. Their words reveal the hardness of their hearts for they admit that Jesus has performed many miracles, yet they don't even consider as a course of action that they should believe Him! Their admission makes their conduct all the more inexcusable. Rather than believe in Jesus, they are obsessed with what they should do to minimize His influence. They are blinded by their hatred and not even really considering the magnitude of what Jesus has just done--namely, resurrect Lazarus, a man who had been dead for four days! We learn later that their hostility is not only directed toward Jesus, the miracle worker, but also toward Lazarus, the living proof of the miracle (cf. John 12:10,11).
These Jewish leaders thought - "If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him." Everyone except them, that is. They would not be "deceived" or "led astray" by a Man who worked countless undeniable miracles!
"The Romans will come and take away both our place and nation" (11:48). This is their way of rationalizing why they need to stop Jesus. They are trying to make the case that if His influence is not counteracted then it would ultimately lead to the loss of their positions of leadership as well as the downfall of their nation. How would this be the case? Perhaps because of their concept of what the Messiah would be--a physical, earthly ruler. Such a one would be a threat to the Roman empire, and if the Romans felt threatened then they would crush the Jewish nation!
Of course, their reasoning is illogical for none of the evidence indicated that Jesus was a threat to the nation. He had not once claimed to be a rival to Caesar or rebelled against the Romans in any way. Yet, the Jewish leaders will ultimately attribute such motives to Jesus in an effort to stimulate the Romans to do away with Him (cf. Luke 23:2). The council is perhaps speaking here more from fear of losing their power and influence with the people than they are of Jesus stirring up the Romans against their nation. It seems unlikely that they could really believe what they are saying. Their words are probably just a feeble attempt to justify their intended sinful actions against the Lord.
It is evident here that they have totally abandoned the idea of a Jewish King-Messiah as far as any transfer of their power to such a one was concerned! It didn't matter what a person did to prove himself as the Messiah, these men would not believe! They would fight vehemently against such a one in order to maintain their own influence among the people. It is quite telling to observe that they mention the loss of their own positions first, even before the loss of the nation. This seems to be more evidence of their order of priorities and their true fear.
Ironically, the course of action they will adopt for maintaining themselves will ultimately make the very calamity they are trying to avoid all the more certain. The rejecting of their true Messiah (i.e., Jesus) was certainly an important factor that ultimately led to the destruction of their temple and the scattering of their nation by the Romans forty years later (cf. Luke 20:9ff).
We will continue our study of this context in our next lesson.