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. (Jn 18:28-32)
“It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” Of course this wasn’t exactly true. But they couldn’t be seen doing it on this great day of the Passover. Generally, the Romans reserved the right of capital punishment for themselves. But just a few chapters ago there were Jews ready to stone a woman to death for adultery. Life was fairly cheap in antiquity. Unless you were someone real important and connected it was doubtful anyone would be tried by a court for murdering you. This was especially true if you were a slave or a second class citizen. Jesus wasn’t even that. He had no ties to Rome whatsoever. But the Jews did not want to be the ones to be found guilty of murdering the folk hero. They would make it a Roman issue. John says that this was all done in order to fulfill the death Jesus said he would die. In order to be crucified he had to die at Roman hands. They were the one’s who crucified. And there hanging on a tree, he would become a curse for us, that we would be blessed.