Pilate thought he could set Jesus free, but Jesus was the One with the power to set Pilate free – from sin and death and hell. But in that moment, who would have expected the reversal?
From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down onthe judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it wasthe day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilatealso 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 19:12-22)
The history of the world is told in the tales of kings and kingdoms, people grappling for or holding onto power. The authority God invested in Adam is twisted into abuse and domination, with everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. Even the best of Israel’s kings were a far cry from the perfect ruler we long for.
We need a king. Someone to put things right. Someone to lead us.
“Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar!” cried the crowd. What they failed to realize was that everyone has a king. We all live according to the dictates of someone or some thing. It may be money. It may be pleasure. It may be reputation. It may be power. It may be yourself.
But make no mistake. We have a king. The only question is – who is the rightful king? Who should be king?
The Jews didn’t see in Jesus the kind of king they wanted. So they decided He should be put aside.
If they couldn’t get Pilate to crucify Jesus by claiming He made Himself God, perhaps they will convince Pilate by claiming Jesus made Himself a King. A king who is rival to Caesar.
But Jesus did not make Himself a king. He was a king before He came, He was a king as He stood before Pilate, and He is the King of Kings today. That’s why it’s no surprise that Pilate again says more than he realizes: “Behold your king!”
Usually, a king in a palace would say “Away with them!” when he wanted the hall cleared of his subjects. But this time, it’s the king whom the people want to put away.
Crucify Him! Enthrone Him on the cross! Show the world we have no king but Caesar, and this is what happens to all who challlenge His throne.
So Jesus the King is judged, condemned by His people. He is enthroned on the cross, with revolutionaries on His right and on His left.
A sign is placed over him that says “King of the Jews” in three languages – Aramaic, Greek, Latin. Greek was the language of the world. Latin was the language of the empire. Aramaic was the language of God’s people. The statement hanging over Jesus’ head is true. He is the King of the Jews, and He is being presented for the whole world to see.
John wants us to remember that this was the Day of the Passover. This was the time of day when the lambs were being slaughtered.
In the book of Revelation, we are introduced the striking image of a lamb on a throne. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is the King who deserves to sit on the throne as judge of all people.
He is the Lion and the Lamb. That image of a lion’s authority and a lamb’s meekness, the weakness of a bleeding lamb upon the strength of a powerful throne – that image is what we see at the cross. This is where Jesus redefines power and authority.
The night before He died, Jesus called His disciples “His friends.” Now, the Jewish leaders tell Pilate to condemn Jesus in order to be Caesar’s friend.
Who appears to be the stronger friend? Jesus or Caesar? Who would you follow? Who would you bet on?
In this moment, Caesar looks strong and Jesus looks weak. But through this weakness, Jesus will conquer the world.
No one is worshiping Caesar today. But billions bow the knee to Jesus.
What does this tell us about power and weakness? Do you remember when Governor Jesse Ventura said, “Organized religion is a sham and crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers”? And then Ted Turner piped in, saying “Christianity is a religion for losers.”
That kind of vitriolic speech rubs you the wrong way, doesn’t it? Makes you want to stand up for Jesus, to proclaim the truth, to shame the mockers! But perhaps in our rush to defend ourselves, we are missing the larger truth that Turner and Ventura have unconsciously stumbled upon. Like Pilate, maybe they are saying more than they know.
It is true. Jesus is for the weak. Jesus is for the poor. Jesus is for “losers.” Jesus is for those who come to the end of themselves and look to God for deliverance.
“Weak” is a four-letter-word for self-sufficient, boastful entrepreneurs. But we see that the world’s understanding of strength is backwards – that true strength is made most visible in intentional weakness.
“Behold your King!” Pilate says. Look at King Jesus long enough and you’ll come to terms with a radically different conception of power.
Caesar ruled by conquering lands and subjugating people. Jesus ruled by conquering sin, death, and the grave and freeing people.
This King bore the full weight of God’s anger and judgment towards the evil of the world. Then He rose again to new life.
Behold your King! The Lamb slain for your redemption.