19 Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS 20 Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. 21 Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.” ’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
Now Pilate wrote a title [notice] and put it on the cross.
It was typical to place a title of notice of the crime on the cross of those crucified. The placard notice described the crime committed. The Romans clearly wanted the public to know what happened to people who committed violations against the state.
And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS
The specific title that the Romans placed on Jesus’ cross ironically gave the pointed reason the Jews wanted Him crucified. This is the longest of the descriptions in the gospels. Other gospels record only the essence of the title.
Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city;
The crucifixion was public. It took place where “many” Jews could see what was written on Jesus’ cross. It was Passover season, so additional thousands of people would have been in Jerusalem to witness the grim scene.
and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
Hebrew was the language of the country of the Jews. Greek and Latin were languages of the Roman Empire. Greek was the common language established by Alexander the Great across the Empire for commerce and writing. Latin was used as the official language for the Roman government documents and military functions. These languages proclaimed universally the reason for Jesus’ death.
Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’
Jewish leadership protested Pilate’s proclamation placed on the cross. They deemed it an insult.
but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.” ’ ”
The Jews wanted the statement to read that Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews. Their desire was that it would read as a personal claim rather than an implication in any sense that He was a king among the Jewish people.
Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
Pilate refused to succeed to the Jews’ request to change the title on Jesus’ cross. He knew that it was a trumped-up allegation of sedition and a legal ploy that the Jews used against Him (Jn 18:38).
God moves in ironic and mysterious ways.
Jesus was proclaimed by the chief languages of the day to be “the King of the Jews.” How ironic! This was a true statement for all to see.