John 18:30
They answered and said to him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to you.
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(30) If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.—They take the position that the Roman is the executive, and their own the judicial power. They bring no legal charge against Jesus, but assert, in effect that they themselves, who understood and had investigated the whole matter, had condemned Him to death, and that the fact that they had done so was in itself sufficient proof that He was worthy of death. They use the vague word “malefactor,” “evil-doer,” though in the trial before Caiaphas they had not sought to prove any evil deed, and they expect that upon this assertion Pilate will pronounce on Him, as on other malefactors, the sentence of death.

18:28-32 It was unjust to put one to death who had done so much good, therefore the Jews were willing to save themselves from reproach. Many fear the scandal of an ill thing, more than the sin of it. Christ had said he should be delivered to the Gentiles, and they should put him to death; hereby that saying was fulfilled. He had said that he should be crucified, lifted up. If the Jews had judged him by their law, he had been stoned; crucifying never was used among the Jews. It is determined concerning us, though not discovered to us, what death we shall die: this should free us from disquiet about that matter. Lord, what, when, and how, thou hast appointed.If he were not a malefactor - A violator of the law. If we had not determined that he was such, and was worthy of death, Matthew 26:66. From this it appears that they did not deliver him up to be tried, but hoped that Pilate would at once, give sentence that he should be executed according to their request. It is probable that in ordinary cases the Roman governor was not accustomed to make very strict inquiry into the justice of the sentence. The Jewish Sanhedrin tried causes and pronounced sentence, and the sentence was usually approved by the governor; but in this case Pilate, evidently contrary to their expectations, proceeded himself to rehear and retry the cause. He had doubtless heard of the miracles of Jesus. He seems to have been strongly pre-possessed with the belief of his innocence. He knew that they had delivered him from mere envy Matthew 27:18, and hence, he inquired of them the nature of the case, and the kind of charge which they expected to substantiate against him. 30. If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee—They were conscious they had no case of which Pilate could take cognizance, and therefore insinuate that they had already found Him worthy of death by their own law; but not having the power, under the Roman government, to carry their sentence into execution, they had come merely for his sanction. They had in their sanhedrim before judged him guilty of blasphemy, Matthew 26:65, but this they durst not mention, lest Pilate should have rejected them, as being not concerned in questions of their law; they therefore only exclaimed against him in the general as a great malefactor, but of what kind they do not say. It should seem they would have had Pilate have added his civil authority to confirm and execute their ecclesiastical censure, without so much as hearing any thing of the cause (as at this day frequent in popish countries); but they met with a more equal judge. They answered and said unto him,.... Offended at the question put to them, and filled with indignation that they should be so interrogated, with an air of haughtiness and insolence reply to him:

if he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee; insinuating, that he was guilty of some very wicked action; not merely of a breach of some of their laws peculiar to them; for then they would have tried and judged him according to them, and not have brought him before him; but they suggest, that he was guilty of some crimes recognizable by Caesar's court; and which they did not care to mention expressly, lest they should not succeed, not having it may be as yet, their witnesses ready; and hoped he would have took their own word for it, without any further proof, they being men of such rank and dignity, and of so much knowledge, learning, and religion; and therefore took it ill of him, that he should ask such persons as they were, so famous for their prudence, integrity, and sanctity, such a question: however, they own themselves to be the betrayers and deliverers up of our Lord, which Christ had before foretold, and which Stephen afterwards charged them with.

They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.
30. a malefactor] Literally, ‘doing evil’ or an evil-doer; not the same expression as Luke 23:32. The Jews are taken aback at Pilate’s evident intention of trying the case himself. They had expected him merely to carry out their sentence, and had not come provided with any definite accusation. Blasphemy, for which they had condemned Him (Matthew 26:65-66), might be no crime with Pilate (comp. Acts 18:16). Hence the vagueness of their first charge. Later on (John 19:7) they throw in the charge of blasphemy; but they rely mainly on three distinct charges, which being political, Pilate must hear; (1) seditious agitation, (2) forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, (3) assuming the title, ‘King of the Jews’ (Luke 23:3).John 18:30. Εἰ μὴ, if not) It is a monstrous calumny to treat the cause of an innocent person as if it were a case of notorious criminality. They wish to relieve Pilate of the labour of investigation, so as that he should not trouble himself about their law, but only inflict the punishment.—οὗτος, this man) Answering to, against this man, in John 18:29.Verses 30, 31. - They answered and said, if he were not a malefactor, we should not have delivered him up to thee. This was somewhat audacious. It was as much as to say, "We have judged, you have only to register our decisions. We are not bound to go through our evidence before you." If it had been so, the deprivation of the jus gladii, the power of capital execution would have mattered little to them. Pilate, in scorn and irony, replies, "If that be so, why have ye brought him to me? If you are unwilling to comply with the terms of Roman jurisprudence, then it must be some ease which you can dispose of according to your own rules." Take ye him yourselves, and according to your Law judge him. Pilate saw their animus, and that they were thirsting for the blood of Jesus, and wished at once to flout them and make them confess their impotence and admit his suzerainty. For them to judge (κρίνειν) was not equivalent to put to death (ἀποκτεῖμαι), and Pilate clearly suggested that much. The Jews [therefore] said to him, It is not lawful (οὐκ ἔξεστι) to us to put any man to death. This was perfectly true, notwithstanding the tumultuary and violent acts and threats, and incipient stonings of Jesus, to which the Gospel refers (John 8:3, 59; John 7:25). Other interpretations of this exclamation have been supplied, viz. "to execute criminals of state" (Krebs), "to do so on feast-days" (Semler); but the power had been formally taken from even the supreme court, forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem. The instance of the massacre of James the Just, occurring between the departure of one Roman governor and the arrival of another, is mentioned by Josephus ('Ant.,' 20:09. 1) as a distinct infringement and violation of law. The stoning of Stephen in a wild tumult, and the proceedings of Herod Agrippa, are rather confirmations than violations of the rule. Thus the malign disposition and distinct purpose of the Jews were revealed. They would not have brought Jesus at all before the Roman governor, nor admitted his claim to decide any case involving religious ideas and practices, if they had not fully decided that Jesus must die. Bat John sees a deeper reason still. Malefactor (κακοποιὸς)

Rev., evil-doer. From κακὸν, evil, and ποιέω, to do. Luke uses a different word, κακοῦργος, from κακὸν, evil, and ἔργω, to work. See on 1 Peter 2:12.

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