King of the Jews.
Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face. – John 19:1-3 NLT
The entire scene of Jesus’ trial before Pilate has a surreal, almost fictional quality to it. It is hard to imagine that all of it actually took place. Even though the events surrounding His trial are very familiar, I still find it difficult to grasp that the Son of God subjected Himself to that kind of abuse all for my sake. The very idea of the most powerful being in the universe, appearing in human form, and allowing those He had created to mock, reject and ultimately kill Him is a shock to the system. The whole story has a mythical feel about it. But we believe it to be true. We don’t see it as a story at all, but as actual historical fact. Every aspect of it took place. As preposterous as it all may sound and unbelievable as it may seem to be, the Son of God DID subject Himself to the abuse and rejection of men. And throughout the proceedings, as Pilate, the soldiers, the Jewish religious leaders, and the people, mocked Jesus, calling Him “King of the Jews,” they were actually speaking truth. He really WAS the King of the Jews. The religious leaders demanded His death claiming, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God” (John 19:7 NLT). And He really WAS the Son of God. But they refused to acknowledge it and were seemingly incapable of recognizing it. To them, He was nothing more than a blasphemer and a lunatic.
All throughout John’s account, the term “King of the Jews” is repeated. Pilate refers to Jesus as “this King of the Jews” hoping to get the people to see how ridiculous the whole affair was. Jesus had already been beaten. He would have looked disheveled and anything but royal in His appearance. So Pilate seems to be attempting to get the people to understand that the only thing for which Jesus was guilty was delusion. He thought Himself to be a king. The soldiers mocked Jesus, crushing a crown of thorns on His head and wrapping a purple robe about His shoulders, shouting, “Hail! King of the Jews!” The people remind Pilate “anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar” (John 19:12 NLT). Finally, Pilate presented Jesus to the people saying, “Look, here is your king!.” but one of the leading priests shouted back, “We have no king but Caesar!” The entire episode revolved around Jesus’ Kingship. Here was the King of the Jews, the King of kings and Lord of lords, standing right in front of them, and their only response was, “Away with him! Crucify him!” They were refusing Jesus as their King. They were rejecting Jesus as their Lord. And in so doing, they were going to miss the opportunity to have Jesus as their Savior.
The most fascinating exchange of the entire scene is the one between Jesus and Pilate. Here was the Roman governor, backed by the power of the Roman government, seemingly holding the fate of the Son of God in his hands. Pilate told Jesus, “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” Pilate was frustrated by the whole ordeal. He was trying to help Jesus gain His freedom, but Jesus seemed to be uncooperative. In Pilate’s mind, he was the deciding factor in this trial. He had the full power and backing of Rome to do with Jesus as he wished. But Jesus informed him otherwise. “You would have no power over me at all unless it were give to you from above” (John 19:11 NLT). Pilate’s authority was God-ordained. Even Rome’s power and global dominance was under the control of God Himself. And Pilate’s authority over Jesus’ life or death was completely in the hands of God. He could do nothing to Jesus that God had not ordained or would allow. The King was in complete control. The sovereign ruler of the universe was orchestrating events just as He had planned them. Pilate was a bit player in God’s grand redemptive play. The religious leaders were chess pieces in the hand of God, accomplishing His will, all the while they were gloating over their seeming victory over Jesus.
Jesus may not have looked like a king. He may not have acted like a king. He did not have all the trappings and royal attributes of a king. But He was King nonetheless. And He was willingly subjecting Himself to His Father’s plan. He was obediently fulfilling His Father’s will – all so that the very people who were demanding His death, might have access to eternal life. He was going to die so that they might be able to receive forgiveness, even for having put Him to death. The King was going to give His life for His own people. He would sacrifice His life for theirs. So when Pilate presented Jesus before the people, covered in blood, draped in a purple robe and wearing a crown of thorns, he shouted, “Look, here is your king!” And no truer words were ever spoken.
The creation killing its creator. It all sounds so ludicrous, so unbelievable. It comes across like a science fiction novel. But it is true. It actually happened. As hard to believe as it may be, it actually took place, just as John recorded it. Father, never let the reality of that day escape me. Don’t let me lose the absolute awe of what took place. Your Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords, subjected Himself to the ridicule and rejection of those He came to save. He willingly died so that we might live. Unbelievable. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men