“Therefore, many Jewish people read this notice, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city. It was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the Chief Priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write: ‘King of the Jews,’ but instead, this man said, ‘I am king of the Jews.’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’”
As we noted above, there is no love lost between Pilate and the Jewish officials and there is certainly a lot of manipulating that has been taking place here. Nevertheless, Pilate lets the words that he wrote stand…perhaps as a bit of a passive-aggressive dig at the Jews on his part, but again, a fulfillment of God’s design in eternal matters. Pilate knew that the trials were a farce (yet he gave the Priests what they wanted to keep the peace), so this becomes his final response in the spectacle that has been put on — “The King of the Jews” will stand, written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, three common languages of his day.
It may be speculated as to why Pilate did not have the same message written in Aramaic, the dialect of Hebrew that the Jews would have used in the marketplace and in their communities. Hebrew, the Jews tended to keep for religious matters in the Temple or the Synagogue. While it is speculative, I would suggest that once again, Pilate is seeking to make a point with the Jewish authorities…he will write the language of the charge in Hebrew — the language of the Temple — because it was the Temple officials who were responsible for bringing the charge. We cannot know for sure, but this seems a reasonable explanation.
It should also be noted that in many depictions of the cross, you see the letters INRI written on the scroll. This is the abbreviation for “Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum” — the Latin inscription: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” As a curious tidbit, the letter “J” in English actually derives from a variant of the letter “I” in Latin (essentially, when the letter “I” is used as a consonant — originally a “Y” sound and then a “dʒ” sound…essentially the “J” of modern usage — it wasn’t until the middle ages that a distinct character was assigned).
A final note…while Pilate and the Jewish Priests were playing politics, a man was dying. And not just any man, the eternal Son of God. How often we, too, can get lost in our own agendas and, while seeking to make political points for ourselves, injustices abound all around us. How much wiser we would be to take the message of Jesus about being a servant to others and the words of the Apostle Paul about considering the needs of others as more significant than our own. The politics will play themselves out, but at the end of the day, which is more important, our own little empires or the Kingdom of Christ? Think carefully before you answer.