From the last Gem – many people are bothered by the fact that the words don’t perfectly match e.g. the sign that was on the cross above Jesus head. Surely when it comes to a written sign that should match perfectly. So why then do we have:
- Matthew: This is Jesus, King of the Jews
- Mark: King of the Jews
- Luke: This is the King of Jews
- John: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
Why is there such variation between the gospel accounts of what was written above Jesus” head? It is not a question of which one is right as I have told you before. So often we come at the differences between the gospels from that point of view – one must be right and the others wrong. Rather consider that they are all right. Each writer is offering a particular viewpoint. Condensing the facts in order to put their point of view. None of us, when we give a factual account of something, give ALL of the details. We select from reality those aspects on which we wish to focus. That is what the gospel writers have done here. If we approach it from that point of view then clearly John’s is the most complete account. The others are condensed versions of the same truth. Notice that the common element in all four accounts is “King of the Jews”. That is the main point that all the writers wish to communicate. Only John takes a more accurate word for word approach. He has already told us the reason he has written his gospel is so that we may know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing in Him we may have life in His name (20:31).
When I covered this section in John’s Gospel in the Gems I wrote the following:
John has a King motif through his gospel. Below is the full listing of the king references in John’s gospel.
Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”John 1:49
When Jesus saw that they were ready to force Him to be their king, He slipped away into the hills by Himself.John 6:15
. . . took palm branches and went down the road to meet Him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King of Israel!”
“Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.”John 12:13, 15
Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are You the king of the Jews?” he asked Him. Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about Me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought You to me for trial. Why? What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, My followers would fight to keep Me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But My Kingdom is not of this world.” Pilate said, “So You are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. Would you like me to release this ‘King of the Jews’?”John 18:33-37, 39
“Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped Him across the face.
Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”John 159:3,
It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, “Look, here is your king!” “Away with Him,” they yelled. “Away with Him! Crucify Him!” “What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.John 19:14-15
Nathanael recognises who this one is. His insight causes the Lord to comment on seeing him in his quiet time. (See Bible Gem 19) He clearly must be a God seeker. Note John’s comment in 6:15. Interesting isn’t it, like Israel in the Old Testament they wanted a Messianic King, but on their terms and not on His. John 12:15 tells us the kind of King He is. Kings didn’t not ride on donkeys. Donkeys were considered lowly work animals. Certainly not fit to carry a king. Kings came on white Arabian horses or were carried in gold litters. Then we have already noted John’s use of the Daniel reference (see Bible Gems 85–88). Interesting isn’t that this One moves from Messiah straight to King not first to Prince. Ponder that one.
Are you king of the Jews? . . . My Kingdom is not an earthly one . . . here is your king . . . away with him. Amazing sequence of events. They are all waiting for the coming of the Messiah. The One of whom Nathanael can say Son of God / King of Israel. They are waiting for the One who will come and usher in the new age and rule Israel and restore to her all her former glory as under David or Solomon. All of Israel is waiting for this moment, waiting for that which Daniel prophesied and gave a specific date – BUT THEY MISSED IT. Then after asking for a king (reminiscent of 1 Sam 8:5) they once again reject the Lord (1 Sam 8:7). My, how things move in circles.
And Pilate posted a sign over Him that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it. Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.”John 19:19-22
The amazing thing is that in John 19, John tells us that Pilate wrote a title and he put it on the cross above Jesus’ head. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. And he records for us that it was written in each one of those three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin.
The amazing thing is when you take that and turn it into Hebrew you end up with . . .
Jesus the Nazarene and King of the Jews. When we look at the first letter of every word in that frame we end up with Y H W H. Do you realise what that means? Above Jesus Christ’s head on the cross was the unmentionable name of God. Stop and think about what I have just said. Above Jesus Christ’s head on the cross was written the unmentionable name of God spelled out in the first letters of each word. Is that Hebrew? Yes, that is very typically Hebrew. Acrostic psalms start with the same Hebrew letter and work consecutively through the alphabet. Having a particular word that starts with a significant letter and having that above Jesus’ head on the cross, is it any wonder that the members of the Sanhedrin said “Don’t write that above his head, write that they said that he was.” because then the pattern would change. Pilate says, “What I have written, I have written, that which is written above his head is what we are going to write”.
And indeed above Jesus Christ’s head was written the unmentionable name of God. Now that is encoded. But only if it is seen in Hebrew. But we are told that it was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The three languages prominent at the time. The local language of the occupied area, the language of scholarship and learning and the language of the Empire. It was being clearly stated in three languages that this one was the King of the Jews – even if they had not recognised it publicly themselves. Well they had but only for one short few hours at the Triumphal Entry. But it is only in Hebrew that the acrostic appears with the first letters of each word.
Yes, Jesus Christ was / is God incarnate on the earth. It is a fact. That is John’s purpose in telling us what was written above Jesus head on the cross.
What was Luke’s purpose? Take time to weigh it up and see what you conclude.
If you knew that those you loved would laugh in your face, would you still care for them? Christ did.Max Lucado
People too weak to follow their own dreams will always find a way to discourage yours.Ian Vail
Being loved is cool, but LOVING is the answer to an amazing life.Leon Fontaine
Strive to become an Island of Excellence in the sea of Mediocrity!Rick Godwin