“And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.”” (John 7:12, ESV)
As Jesus goes up to the Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem and begins to teach the crowds, the opinion of his character is quite divergent, some think he is good, some think he is leading the people astray.
The word that John uses to describe those who felt that Christ was leading people astray is πλανάω. It means “to deceive, mislead, or cause to be mistaken.” In the Septuagint one use of this word is to refer to God’s people being led astray by pagan gods, idols, false prophets, and unfaithful kings. The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament [part lexicon part commentary on Greek words] points out that: “The writings of postbiblical Judaism attribute such seduction into sin and esp. into idolatry to demonic powers.”
To the Jewish mind of the time, this was probably not just an opinion that Jesus was leading the people into minor error, there is a hint that they considered the “leading astray,” a sort of demonic leading astray into sin and away from God.
This interpretation gains credence because in vs. 20 what is hinted at in vs. 12 becomes explicit: “The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”” (John 7:20, ESV). The word demon is emphasized in the Greek.
Some in the crowd felt that Jesus was leading the people astray [and probably into sin] and he was so crazy that he was being influenced by a demon.
This is nothing more than misunderstanding the import of Jesus’ message and calling good bad. Here Jesus was, the Messiah (John 4.27); the eternal Logos (John 4.1) and some of the people thought that he had a demon! How utterly completely they missed him.
It would behoove us not to emulate the people in the crowd who decided that Jesus and all that he stood for was bad. This is a mistake which has eternal ramifications.