The politically driven religious illuminati would not countenance meeting with Pontius Pilate in his own home. While considered unworthy of their fellowship, he was, however, just the lad to complete their agenda. They wished to use him and Pilate knew it. As a courtesy to their religious intolerance, he met them on their terms: So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” ~John 18:29
Along with Pilate, these guys were skilled politicians. They didn’t give a direct answer: “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” ~John 18:30
Note the difference between Pilate’s question and their non-answer. Pilate is interested in the rule of law. He wants to know the charges. The Sanhedrin had already declared Jesus a criminal. The word in the Greek for criminal is: κακοποιός (kä-ko-poi-o’s) and literally translated it’s an egregious pejorative. It mean: “evil-doer.” It is the same word used for the two men who hung on the respective crosses surrounding Jesus. And that was the exact meaning the Sanhedrin wished to convey.
Because of their lack of specificity, Pilate tried to defer: Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” ~John 18:31a Pilate was making an important point. Rome had no interest in the surfeit of moral hazards as defined by these grave religious zealots. The fact that he was talking to them from his front porch rather than his living room underscored his mistrust. They thought him unclean. What Pilate was hearing was that these clerics, who were gifted at sculpting soaring mountains out of microscopic molehills, had experienced some random offense at the hands of Jesus. Big deal. Being offended was their default mode. Everything offended them, even himself – the Roman Prefect – just for being a Roman. Yet, in this early morning call, they had produced nothing that offended Rome’s civic sensibilities.
At that, they quit mincing words: “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.” ~John 18:31b Clever. They feigned obedience to the Roman Law and threw it in Pilate’s face. And they knew, and Pilate knew, that the position of Roman Prefect was volatile. Prefects came and went with astonishing frequency. If Pilate didn’t do something, if he didn’t throw them a bone, these skilled pontificators would no doubt use their many connections to lodge a complaint up the chain. John inserts a riveting comment after this high gamesmanship: “This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.” ~John 18:32 A bigger gamesmanship, one designed in heaven, was being played that neither side knew about.