John 19:16–19 (ESV)
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
What kind of king is He? Broken and battered, bloodied and bruised. He couldn’t even carry His own cross. Some stranger had needed to bear it for Him. Kings are supposed to be strong and victorious – majestic and magnificent. He is feeble and faint. His own people didn’t even want Him. They had called for the release of a murderer in His place, wishing death on Him above all else.
Mark 15:6–13 (ESV)
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.”
What kind of king is He? Surrendered and resigned. Pilate had asked Him point blank if He was their king, and although it had been short, His response spoke volumes.
“You have said so.”
He wouldn’t even admit to BEING their King.
“My kingdom is not of this world.”
What did that even mean? Certainly THIS man was not a king at all.
Kings are filled with pride and prestige. Celebrated and renowned. They stand tall and puff out their chest. This one couldn’t stand at all. Upon His arrival to the hill they called “The Skull” – He had fallen to the ground, weak and weary, unable to even move. The soldiers who surrounded Him did not come to His defense, but rather mocked and taunted Him with their words and with their deeds. They stripped Him of His clothes and placed a crown of thorns upon His head. Real kings wear crowns of gold and adorn themselves with jewels. They wear lavish robes and sit on thrones, and command armies with the mere sound of their voice. This man lays naked and alone, bleeding from His brow. Shamed and spat upon, He lifts His arms only in surrender, as they lay Him on the cross that will be His humbling end.
Three nails are driven in, three nails will hold Him there – high above the earth for all to stare and see. An embarrassment, a fraud, a failure. No more the Messiah than any of those who had claimed to be before Him. No more a king, than even you or me.
And yet, Pilate has a sign placed above His head, much to the distaste of those who brought Him to this point. Perhaps he is covering his bases, afraid from the dream his wife has had. Perhaps it is a jab at Caiaphas the priest, who by now is surely on his last and final nerve. Or maybe he too, is mocking Jesus, showing Him who really holds the power at this point. No matter the reason, the inscription seems insidious, misleading and malicious.
John 19:19–22 (ESV)
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
The King of the Jews. A man and a Messiah – needed and necessary to restore God’s chosen race. A people who had waited for their person for so many centuries. Enslaved in Egypt, banished to Babylon, and ruled by Rome. God’s people have waited for Him to send their Savior, and restore to them the place that He has promised. They have waited for Him to revive their nation and repair their position among the world’s powers. They have longed for the One who Moses mentioned, David described and Isaiah indicated would come. They anticipated the arrival of the King that Daniel foretold;
Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV)
…and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
They thought it was Him. They had believed at His baptism. They trusted in His teachings. They were marveled by His miracles. Humbled by those He healed, fascinated by the forgiveness He offered, and astounded by His ability to raise Lazarus from the grave. Surely, He would be the One. This would be their time. All would be made right.
They thought that it was Him – but as He breathed His last and hung His head, they knew that they were wrong.
What kind of king is He? Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews – is dead.