CONVICTED OF KINGSHIP
19Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read:|sc JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." 22Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."
(Brief portions following are adapted from some writings of Rev. Arthur Graf, former Seminary professor and presently retired and living in Texas.)
Text:— ..Pilate wrote a title and put it on the Cross, and the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'He said I am the King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."
-- Added to the humiliation of the traditional Roman punishment of death by the torture of crucifixion was the posting of a "superscription." It was a public listing of the crime(s) or accusation(s) with which victims had been accused, ordinarily in hopes of deterring others from committing the same acts. It was nailed at the top of each executed person's center post. Thieves and robbers probably had something like the Latin word "LATRO" placed in bold painted letters above them, for example, to exhibit that "crime doesn't pay" and that "this is how we Romans deal with those who steal." - This is perhaps exactly how the Gospel-writers were able to know what kind of persons were crucified on either side of Jesus.
How transfixing and profound, though, to think of the conviction posted over Jesus, Himself:— "THE KING OF THE JEWS." That was the official government accusation, unquestionably unique in nature! - Was it only said "tongue in cheek" of Jesus by Pilate? Possibly so, but Pilate nevertheless insisted that, "What I have written, I have written."
The fact that those at the Lord's trial and foot of His Cross jeering Him didn't believe Jesus was King didn't make it any less true. The fact, rather, was and IS that JESUS IS King! God the Father made Him King over all other beings and creation from eternity to eternity. Let's therefore explore the idea of a King from God:— Before Pilate's time, At his time and that of the Cross, and Since that time...
Its history began with the Israelites' demand for a king from God through the Prophet Samuel. God clearly responded that the people's demand was because they had rejected Him as their King from the time of their deliverance from Egypt and ever afterwards. - The people were solemnly warned of the kind of earthly king they would get:— A dictator who would "tax the daylights out of them" and draft all their sons and daughters to build a war-machine and for his own personal service. The people still insisted on God's providing them with a king, however, - and at first they felt flattered to receive the tall and handsome Saul. They soon found out that God's threat was true, though. Saul became a tyrant!
The more glorious reigns of David and Solomon eventually then followed, but after them the nation was divided into two kingdoms. - For both kingdoms there came long successions of kings, some of whom were desperately wicked and some relatively "good," but none who ever again measured-up to what once had been experienced under David and Solomon.
Finally Jesus appeared during the time of the Herods, who were no more than "puppets" for the Roman regime. Following the miraculous and attention-getting feeding of the 5,000 Jesus had to withdraw to a mountain alone, when the crowd sought to force Him into Kingship. Their motive was earthly, of course, only to keep themselves well fed and physically secure, but no pure spiritual motive was involved.
Again, during the Palm Parade in Jerusalem, the people would have been immediately ready to take up arms and follow Jesus in a revolt. And again, their motive was guided by the short-sighted wish for a return to the earthly "glory days" they thought had been enjoyed under King David.
AT THE TIME OF CHRIST'S TRIAL AND CRUCIFIXION
The people's wish was just not to be, of course. Although He was in truth their King, Jesus had no intention of doing things their way!
Among other things the Jewish High Priests and Scribes jeered His claim about "building the Temple in three days." You can imagine their thinking:— "He only says He's our King. So He thinks He's God's favored One, does He?! WE are they with whom God is pleased. Just look at Him up there on that Cross! He's getting what He really deserves!"
The Roman soldiers marched along right in time as well, -- spitting, cursing and mocking, -- putting the purple robe and crown of thorns on Jesus. They kept it up at the Cross, of course thinking:— "WE serve the real king, Caesar, and we are your rulers! We rule the world!"
The two thieves crucified alongside of Jesus both also began like the crowd by reviling Jesus. It would generally take a long time for anyone to die on a Cross, and one of the thieves just kept up his crass teasing, we're told!
The essence of everyone's ridiculing was exactly that, "IF you're a King, Jesus, take charge of things and come down from there and SAVE Yourself!" - And finally there was Pilate too, who, although he was the governing authority-figure who had insisted on the superscription, rejected Jesus as well. All clearly had the wrong idea about who Jesus and what His Kingly power IS!
His majestic power was exhibited right in front of them on the Cross. Jesus was perfectly in charge and manifested His supreme power precisely by not coming down. He was then-and-there putting the final touch on His over-ruling Satan, even as He had done by defeating the devil in the wilderness and by casting demons out of possessed people.
There Jesus won all of history's greatest battle of the power of Love and Good against all the forces of Evil, gaining forgiveness for all the people and sins of the world -- and for you and for me! By giving Himself into even death, He overcame death. --What other king ever did that for anyone?!
On the Cross Jesus even took the royal trophy of a human soul right in the midst of His own agony, promising a place in Paradise on that very same day! There on the CROSS Jesus SHOWED His Kingship! He refused to taste or sip any of the sedating wine offered to Him several times until He had suffered everything necessary of even hell itself in order to fully atone for all humanity and the world. HE was in control and was subject to no man or power or taunt that He was less than He really IS!
SINCE THE CRUCIFIXION
Luther's Small Catechism teaches us about Christ's eternally appointed roles as Prophet, Priest and "King." In that context we also learn of His three-fold Kingdom of Power, Grace and Glory. - After the Lord's Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension, the writers of Holy Scripture finally got a handle on the kind of Kingship God always intended. Saint Paul once expressed it gloriously as a hymn of praise, to Him who is One with God as Creator and Preserver and has first place in all things, in the first chapter of Colossians... (Here read Colossians 1:13-20 for yourself and Philippians 2:9-11, then Revelation 1:5 and 1:13-16 /
4:2-3 / 5:5 / 11:15 / and especially 19:11-16 as well, perhaps... - and be ready for an ecstatic thrill in reading them!!!)
The thing of final importance, of course, is where we today stand on the issue of Christ's Kingship. Some still say He's no King at all. Many say or perhaps inwardly think that He might be someone else's King, but not mine, or King over some things, but not over all.
When we look to Jesus only for earthly helps and not especially for our forgiveness through His shed blood, we're like the crowd of 5,000 or those who cast the palms but changed their minds later on. We're like the impenitent thief if we charge Him to save us not from sin itself, but only from its consequences:— "Don't make me quit, Lord. Just don't make me pay." And we're like Pilate if we really just don't accept the fact of Christ's Divine and Kingly power or ever adopt an attitude that says we can somehow do something ourselves to add to and help with the entirely sufficient atoning work that only Jesus alone could have accomplished!
Pilate nevertheless officially convicted Jesus of being a King! The question therefore being put to us here and now is this:— Has God's Holy Spirit convinced you that Jesus is YOUR one-and-only eternal King?