|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
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.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
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