Chapter 18:28-32 (ESV) - Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
Question to consider: Why didn’t the ones who wanted Jesus to be executed wish to tell Pilate their accusation against Him?
When we think of the title, governor, we think of an elected official who is put in charge of a state. Pilate, however, was appointed by Rome to govern Judea, and it was not considered a desirable appointment. Ordinarily, Pilate would not have given the execution of Jesus a second thought, but as we learned in Matthew, Pilate had received a note from his wife that said, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” (Matthew 27:19) There was also the fact that Jesus seemed to be popular among the people so a misstep in his ruling could have produced unrest in a region that was already volatile. The people of Israel believed that the land was given to them by God and that one day, God would deliver them from Roman rule by an anointed king.
If Caiaphas could have provided evidence that Jesus was going to lead an insurrection against Rome, he may have dealt with the situation differently, but Jesus did not seem to be a threat, and He even went so far as to tell people to pay their taxes so there was no reason from a Roman perspective that Jesus should be put to death. Pilate asked them to bring an accusation against Jesus because so far all he could determine was that Jesus had done something to offend them. They resisted giving Pilate their accusation because the charge of blasphemy against the God of the Jews meant nothing to Rome.
I also have to think that Pilate didn’t appreciate that he had to come to them outside of his headquarters because they didn’t want to defile themselves by entering so he felt no obligation to do their dirty work for them. Ultimately, they needed Pilate to crucify Jesus. Stoning Jesus would just make a martyr out of Him because someone could be unjustly stoned. However, being hung on a tree was considered by the Jews to mean that the person had been cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). If the people saw Jesus hanging on a cross, it would put down any hope for them that He could be their Messiah. This is why they challenged Jesus to prove He was the Son of God by saving Himself from the cross. They had not considered the fact that the curse Jesus bore was our own, and that He remained on the cross by His own will until all of our sins could be paid. Only then did He give up His spirit and go to the Father.
Dear heavenly father, please give us the desire to pursue true righteousness and not just act in a way that only appears right to other people. You search our hearts and know where we have fallen short of Your glory. Help us to see our sin and repent of it so we may be able to walk more closely with You. Amen.