John 18:28 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. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 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.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
The two sides of this evil intrigue continue their back and forth debate about Jesus. The Romans want evidence to prove Jesus’s guilt but the Jews want Jesus’s death to prove His guilt. Pilate challenges the action and the timing of these leaders. “The Romans allowed them [the Jews] a good deal of self-government, but they had not the right to carry out the death penalty. The ius gladii, as it was called, the right of the sword, belonged only to the Romans.” [a] Neither of these two sides will win. No matter how cleverly debated, their actions are going “to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is the only one who understands the purpose of this struggle. God is not fooled into having to work around the deceit and guile of human beings. No matter what these two power groups do or how they may protest in the future, history will be written to record how man’s evidence, intrigues, manipulations, and laws may effectively fool each other but God is always going to be the winner.
What does it say about people?
The Jews main concern is to get rid of Jesus and not be defiled by entering a gentile house when they are busy defiling themselves by their intent to kill Him. Pilate is no fool. He knows guilt is not the reason Jesus has been brought before him. It’s an attempt to manipulate the law so the Romans will be guilty of Jesus’s death, not them.
Is there truth here for me?
Pilate certainly knows of many good things Jesus has done and is well aware that he’s being manipulated to murder by proxy. The Jews have no evidence to give other than Jesus is “doing evil.” Jesus is an uncomfortable inconvenience neither side wants to deal with. Everyone involved has missed a night’s sleep and that may be part of the Jew’s plan. They know many people who might have stood up for Jesus are still in bed. Pilate recognizes he’s being manipulated for only one reason: if he kills Jesus it will lessen the backlash for the Chief Priests and judges from the growing crowd of Jesus’s followers.
[a] William Barclay