Open Your Bible
John 18:28-40, John 19:1-22, Psalm 2:1-12
BY Patti Sauls
“Oh, I just can’t wait to be king!” declares the lion cub, Simba, in the 1994 movie, The Lion King. Simba struts as he sings of all the power and advantages he will enjoy when he inherits his father’s throne. The royal cub’s swagger is short-lived, though, as tragedy and trials arise. No spoiler alert needed—it’s obvious that young Simba is clueless about what it really means to be king.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus was surrounded by others’ confusion about what it means to be King. Many people were drawn to His teaching and were convinced by His miracles that He was the long-awaited Messiah who would rule as King in Jerusalem and restore the Jewish nation. Just days before His arrest and crucifixion, jubilant crowds waved palm branches and proclaimed: “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13)
But not everyone wanted to crown Him King. The Jewish leaders were suspicious of Jesus’s growing influence, threatened by His miracles, and outraged by His claims of being united with God. All of this could disrupt their religious power dynamic. How would it affect their status if this man from Nazareth gained power?
The chief priests wanted to eliminate this threat by executing Jesus, but they knew that only Roman authorities could implement the death penalty (John 18:31–32). So, they arrested Him and charged Him with claiming to be “King of the Jews.” They hoped this would force the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, to declare Jesus a political rebel and sentence Him to death. The stakes were high. Some crowds wanted Jesus to be king. Others, riled up by the Jewish leaders, wanted Him killed. As governor, Pilate was tasked with keeping the peace between his territory’s people and the rule of Rome.
Pilate knew the leaders wanted Jesus executed, but he couldn’t reconcile the calm, quiet man before him with such fierce allegations of rebellion. Three times Pilate insisted that he saw no basis for a criminal charge, but the unrelenting crowds threatened, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Anyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar!” (John 19:12). Seeing the crowd’s mounting frenzy and fearing Roman backlash, Pilate buckled under the pressure and condemned Jesus to a torturous death on a cross.
The sign that Pilate fastened to Jesus’s cross stated, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19). This was no ordinary notice of a criminal’s name and offense. It should stop us in our tracks because it was, and forever will be, a revelation of who Jesus really is. Jesus is the King who secures restoration and redemption for His people. He is the King who deflates status-seeking and disrupts self-centered living.
Pilate had this sign written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek so that all could read it (John 19:20). Jesus died and rose again so that we, too, could have the eyes of our hearts opened. We don’t have to wait for Jesus to be an earthly king. We see and recognize that our King has come. Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel!