JOHN 19:18-22 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.”
The path from the Stone Pavement to Golgatha was intentionally not the most direct route. The condemned were paraded through the city for all to see. This had a two-fold purpose. First, it warned others of the penalty of opposing Roman authority. Secondly, it gave an opportunity for witnesses to come forward in defense of one wrongly convicted. The Roman authorities crucified the condemned outside of the Holy City out of respect for the Jews. But they chose a busy road where many would pass by on their way to or from the city.
As was the Roman custom with all crucifixions, the charges of the condemned were proclaimed on a sign, which was nailed to the cross. Pilate ordered that Jesus’ sign read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” This charge was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Aramaic was the language of religion and morality and was spoken primarily by Jews living in Judea. Latin was the language of Rome, of government, and of civil law. Greek was the language of science, culture, and philosophy and was spoken by Jews who lived outside of Israel. Not only did this sign, proclaim Jesus’ identity to all who passed by, it also symbolized Jesus as the King of all nations. During Jesus’ public ministry, he proclaimed the message of redemption first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. At his trial, Jesus stood first before the Jewish court and then before the Roman court. Now at his crucifixion, Jesus was proclaimed the King of the Jews to all nations.
The Jewish leaders were indignant! They likely expected a charge of blasphemy or insurrection. All their plotting and conspiring to silence Jesus’ message was coming undone. How fitting that rather than a charge of guilt against Jesus, the sign proclaimed the very truth the Jews hoped to silence. Pilate chose to be complicit in Jesus’ death but publically revealed the true charge against Him. Regardless of Pilate’s motives, God used him to proclaim Jesus’ true identity to all who witnessed His crucifixion.
Jesus hung between two criminals. Each man witnessed the same events and character of Jesus, yet only one had a change of heart. One man recognized Jesus’ innocence and his own guilt; he rebuked the other criminal and voiced faith in Jesus. Luke tells us that this man was promised paradise. There was nothing the man could do to earn salvation. Jesus freely gave it, just as He freely gives it to all who believe.
These two men represent every man. There are only two responses to Jesus. Either you confess your sins to Him asking Him to forgive you, or you reject Him. There is no halfway. We cannot accept parts of God’s Word that appeal to us and reject the rest. It is all or nothing. Jesus is all or nothing! He alone can redeem us from sin, its penalty, and its presence. He is the one and only way of salvation. Jesus died for all people- young and old, male and female, Jew and Gentile.
Jesus is the King of all nations. Philippians 2:9-11 declares “God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”