In John 19:21 we read, “Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, 'Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate refuses and at first glance, it seems as if he were saving Jesus a little bit of dignity. His being reluctant to consent to the crucifixion in the first place, offering Barabbas in His place, and then washing his hands of the matter, appears sympathetic to the plight of Jesus. To me, this text seemed to imply that Pilate believed. Is he (Pilate) saying he believes Jesus is King? In studying the context of the story the resounding answer is "no."
The cross was a scandal, a punishment reserved for slaves and rebels. It was not talked about in polite society. Therefore, Pilate is inferring that Jews were inferior to the Romans and that crucifixion is what one could expect for a Jewish king. He is mocking them, by juxtaposing the regal splendor, authority, honor and wealth of a king, to this naked, suffering, pitiful Jew who claims to be God. How spiteful, then, is his refusal to grant their request.
Now let's go back and notice a few things about the request. The chief priests were granted a certain civil power by the controlling Roman government and their power was challenged by this Jesus. They beg Pilate for His crucifixion, something that is not lawful for them to carry out, yet they are offended that he besmirches their nationality with the sign above Jesus' head. Beggars can't be choosers. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
Ok, enough with the clichés.The sign served to tell the passersby what crime the malefactor had committed. The chief priests wanted Jesus crucified, sure, but they also wanted to preserve national honor.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8 says, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
As the priests squabbled over the minor details of what they thought was a victory, and as the rulers of Rome made their point and breathed a sigh of relief that the oft-violent and rebellious Passover week was finished, both groups, using the world's system to monopolize power, had no idea that they had crowned Jesus as King. Later, Rome would fight valiantly to extinguish the quickly-growing movement. The Jewish leaders would fight it, too. In retrospect, how ironic that sign. "The King of the Jews."
Throughout Acts we see the apostles struggling against incredible odds, yet one senses their faith in the sovereignty of King Jesus. Jesus said that all power had been given to Him in heaven and earth. Yet He uses the weak of this world to show His power. If Jesus is willing to empty Himself of power, how much more should we? In closing I leave you with Jeremiah 9:23-24:
"Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercises lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord."
--Written by T.F.