John 19 vs 17 - 22
17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many 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. 21 The 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.”22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
In my apprenticeship as a traditional Sign & Poster Writer at the age of 16, I remember a lovely man called Wesley of the Seamen’s Mission coming to the workshop and ordering cloth banners with John 3:16 written on them. They were to be in different languages for the various ships coming in to the Belfast harbour Polish, Russian, Slovakian; all sorts, and I always wondered to myself if anyone ever actually read this text which was strange to me. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I met a new worker from the mission, and he was one of the very seamen who had come into Belfast port and read the banner some 15 years before. Truly, God speaks in many languages.
Here, at the cross, our God used a sign, written in three languages of the day, a sign that was meant to degrade and humiliate Jesus. In those crucifixion days a sign was hung over the prisoner’s neck as he walked to the cross. The sign usually had his name and his crime written on it for all who passed by to see. In keeping with a prophesy foretold many years before which said, “He was numbered with the transgressors”, Jesus too had a sign nailed to the cross above Him. Ironically it was Pilate who ordered it and most likely Roman soldier who wrote it, but it shows us how God sometimes uses the ungodly for His purposes. That proclamation said; JESUS CHRIST KING OF THE JEWS.” I wonder how many read it and were challenged, even persuaded; the penitent thief on the cross, the centurion or Pilate perhaps? Maybe some of Jesus executioners, maybe even some of those who were denied His deity, the Pharisees or the Zealots?
What about us as we read it again, as if for the first time. Does it thrill us to know that JESUS KING OF THE JEWS, KING OF KINGS, KING OF HEAVEN, KING OF HEARTS, was lifted up on a cross to die for you and me?