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.” 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.” John 19:18-22 ESV
May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him! Psalm 72:5-11 ESV
In 1831, a man named Louis-Phillipe was the king of France. This king was given a huge amount of money as his salary, 18 million francs a year, while at the same time most of his people were terribly poor. A man named Honore Daumier drew a political cartoon that made fun of the king and showed how terribly selfish he was. It showed a very fat king sitting on his throne and being fed bag after bag of money. The money was coming to his mouth up a ramp, and was being hauled up by laborers. Many poor people were standing around, looking very sad, waiting to add their money to bags that were being fed to the king. This cartoon was called Gargantua, but it never made it to the newspaper, because government censors stopped it from being published.
When Jesus was crucified, Pontius Pilate used the situation to make fun of the Jews who had given him so much trouble. A criminal who was crucified would have a notice on his cross telling everyone what the crime was, and the notice that Pilate put on Jesus’ cross was, “The King of the Jews.” This notice made Jesus an insulting picture of the kind of king the Jews had and the way they treated their king. The religious leaders understood that Pontius Pilate was making fun of them. They asked Pilate to change the sign to say, “This man said, I am the King of the Jews,” but the governor wouldn’t change it.
Pilate wanted to make fun of the Jewish leaders, but he didn’t know that he was actually telling the truth. Jesus is the king, not only of the Jews but of all people. Not all people believe in Jesus as their king, but everyone will have to bow to him one day when he comes again as our judge. Because Jesus died to make us his own people, everyone who believes in him will be part of his heavenly kingdom forever, and we will someday completely see what a powerful and wonderful king he is.
Dear Jesus, thank you for being our king and for dying for us. Amen.