King of the Jews… An Earthly or Divine King?
“Yet there is a custom with regard to you that I should release one to you during the Passover. Do you desire that I release to you the King of the Jews?”
There is a lot of overlap between the different Gospel accounts at this point in the trial, each Gospel writer emphasizing those aspects that the Spirit directed to be most valuable for their respective initial audiences. Though all four writes mention the title, “King of the Jews,” it seems to me that John’s use of the term is the most directed — it is set off in ways that make it more pronounced.
Clearly, Pilate does not see Jesus’ kingship as a threat to his own power or the trial would have been done with already. We have also seen already the conversation that Pilate had with Jesus about the nature of Jesus’ kingdom — that it is a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. So why is Pilate continuing to use this language? Clearly he is seeking to taunt the Jewish authorities. What a pathetic king, from a Roman standpoint at least, one whom a mere Roman Governor has the power of life and death over. You can almost see the Priests squirming at this statement and Pilate enjoying every minute of that confrontation. Who is manipulating whom, we might ask as the politics of the event continue to unfold.
Yet, in the midst of the politics, what an appropriate title. Jesus is the King of the Jews from old, he is the one to whom they have always and historically looked as their divine King, and he is the one that all True Israel serves even unto this day, for if we have faith in Jesus Christ, we are children of Abraham. And even today, Jesus sits enthroned on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, worthy of all praise and glory and adoration and honor. Worthy of our obedience and our love.
There will come a day when all nay-sayers will bow their knee before the Lordship of Christ — sadly, for many it will be to their utter condemnation and judgment. Amongst those are this group here who are bickering over who will execute our Lord. While each is trying to ensure that the blood of Christ is on the others hands, by the dynamics that take place, blood is on the hands of all. God’s providence is remarkable…remember what Peter said of this in his sermon at Pentecost:
“Men of Israel — Hear these words! Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was proven by God to you though might and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know, this one, by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, was delivered up through the hands of lawless men to be crucified and killed.”
Do you hear what Peter is saying? Who delivered Jesus up? Lawless men did. But lawless men did it because of the definite plan or design and foreknowledge of God. God superintended all of these things from the beginning through miracle and providence to reach this end. An end that will bring salvation to all those who call on Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
In the end, we are left with one question. Which king will you serve? Will you serve a divine one that rules even today? Or will you serve an earthly king who will be here today and gone with the passing of God’s providential design. Pilate and Caesar are dead. Pilate and Caesar have bowed before the crushing foot of God’s justice and are facing judgement in the fires of hell. Jesus sits enthroned. Which king will you follow?