Note: The Lectio Divina based devotion below follows a Lenten journey called “By His Side.” The order for daily scriptures throughout Lent comes from “Praying with Passion,” by Ken Taylor. The daily scriptures chronologically follow the passion of Christ from the Last Supper to the crucifixion. I focus on a particular word or phrase from the day’s reading and meditate on what the passage says about Christ, what it says about human nature, what it says about our relationship with Christ and others, and what I sense God is calling me to do, refrain from doing, or be mindful of as I seek to follow Christ “by his side.”
Lectio: John 19:19-22 (NRSV) “Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Contemplation: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Meditation: Jesus is called by many names in the gospel of John. Each name connotes varying levels of knowledge or spiritual revelation and insight into his true identity. For example, in John chapter one alone, Jesus is called nine names. He is called the Word, Life, True Light, the Son of God, Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah, and son of Joseph from Nazareth. In John 1:49, Nathaneal first recognizes Jesus as the King of Israel.
Besides Nathaneal, the people and Pilate recognize Jesus as a King. In chapter six of the gospel, Jesus withdraws to the mountains when he perceives that the people were going to take him by force to make him king. On the first day of the Passover, the people took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord – the King of Israel!”
Pilate also recognized Jesus as a King. After hearing the allegations against him at his headquarters, Pilate summons Jesus and, in private, asks him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus acknowledges that he is a King, but that his kingdom is not from the world. Pilate presses, “So you are a king?” Jesus answers, “You say that I am a king.” Pilate finds no basis for the allegations against Jesus and tries to release him. He asks the people if he should release the King of the Jews, but the people adamantly reject his offer. Pilate eventually condemns Jesus to crucifixion against his own judgment and says, “Here is your King!” He then directs that a conspicuous multi-language inscription for public notice, be put on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The inscription on the cross also served to slight his subordinate, Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, who sought the title of King for himself.
A dispute soon arose at the Place of the Skull between the chief priests and Pilate about the semantics or meaning of the multi-lingual inscription written and put on the cross. The chief priests raise an objection to Pilate and ask that he amend the inscription because of its implications. The inscription, as written, declared and acknowledged Jesus to be the King of the Jews, rejected by his own people. The amended inscription lobbied for by the chief priests would convey the meaning that Jesus self-proclaimed to be King of the Jews, and was therefore crucified as an enemy of the Emporer and the Roman Empire. It was all about the optics or perception about who would be blamed for Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate holds to his decision by stating, “What I have written, I have written.”
Today I meditate on the many verbal and written inscriptions of Jesus I have heard and seen over the years. I realize that the statements characterizing Jesus’ claims and message influences whether Jesus is handled with disregard, ambivalence, or reverence. I also meditate on who I would publically profess Jesus to be if I had the opportunity to put an inscription or public note on the cross for all the world to see.
Prayer: I pray for the grace to fully know and make Jesus Christ fully known in all of his love, truth, and glory.