John 19:15-22 (NLT)
19-20 And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews…and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it.”
This is the day of preparation for the Passover. Think about how busy we are the day before Christmas. There are lots of preparations and people are very busy getting ready. And so it was in that day and time, as people in Jerusalem were busy and preoccupied with all of the preparations to celebrate Passover.
Now the leading, chief priests had been conspiring to have Jesus crucified early that morning while most people were sleeping and then getting up to prepare for Passover. As you read John’s Gospel you can make a case that the people who shouted “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday were not the same people who shouted “Crucify him,” on this day of days. This crowd pressuring Pilate to crucify Jesus was carefully, slyly, organized by the leading priests to force Pilate’s hand, while most people were preparing for Passover.
Pilate hates the leading priests and they hate him, the representative of Roman occupation, a foreign government in the holy city of Jerusalem. It is ironic that Pilate would call Jesus the king of the Jews; and he does it to irritate the leading priests, as Jesus does not appear to be a king. On the other hand, it’s ironic that the leading priests would ever say, “We have no king but Caesar.” They hated Caesar but they hated Jesus even more. And so they pressure Pilate into crucifying Jesus because Pilate wants to avoid a riot, and one during Passover when Jerusalem’s population has swelled for that celebration.
Pilate, doesn’t want to crucify Jesus, but he wants to keep the fragile peace in a land where revolutionaries and zealots were lurking. Pilate gives in and places the sign on the cross, ““Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” With that sign he further irritates the leading priests and it’s intentional.
The sign is written in three languages, Hebrew, the language of the religion; Latin, the language of government; and Greek, the language of the Philosophers. And here we see the best of religion, governance, and philosophy crucifying Jesus. The best the world has to offer is there, at the crucifixion of the Savior.
Sometimes, even our best falls short because we are sinful people in need of the saving grace, love, and forgiveness of Jesus offered to us through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Thanks be to God for the merciful, forgiveness given to us in and through Jesus Christ. Today, I encourage you to celebrate the saving-grace of Jesus.