Monday, December 24
Scripture: John 19-21
John 19:19 Pilate also had a sign made and put on the cross. It said: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
The Jewish leaders tried Jesus for blasphemy; He claimed to be the Son of God (19:7). But they knew that Pilate, the Roman governor, would never condemn Jesus to death for this, so they accused Jesus of sedition; He claimed to be the King of the Jews. Jesus’ trial before Pilate centered on this political charge, not the religious one (John 18:28-19:22). This act of sedition, claiming to be a king, could be construed as treason against Caesar, a capital crime—even though Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world (18:36).
When someone was condemned, their crime was written on a placard and hung around their neck, then attached to the cross. Pilate had this written on Jesus’ placard: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. Pilate was mocking the Jewish leaders and their convenient allegiance to Caesar. And to make sure everyone understood, Pilate had it written in three languages: Aramaic (the local language), Greek (the lingua franca of the empire), and Latin (the language of Rome). The Jewish leaders asked Pilate to change the inscription to “He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” They resented the humiliation implied that their king was a criminal crucified by Rome. Pilate refused to budge.
The irony of course is that Jesus was King of the Jews…and more. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
First, Jesus is my King. He deserves my full allegiance. Plain and simple.
Second, the three languages on Jesus’ inscription remind me of something George MacLeod wrote, ”I simply argue that the cross should be raised at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town’s garbage heap; at a crossroad, so cosmopolitan they had to write His title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek…at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died. And that is what He died for. And that is what He died about. That is where church-men ought to be and what church-men ought to be about.”
Prayer: Jesus, you are King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and you deserve my allegiance. Help me to represent you not just in the church, but in the marketplace.