And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
It was the custom of the Romans, that the equity of their proceedings might more clearly appear when they crucified any man, to publish the cause of his death in a table written in capital letters, and placed over the head of the crucified. And that there might be, at least, a show and face of justice in Christ's death, He also shall have His title or superscription. The worst and most unrighteous actions labour to cover and shroud themselves under pretentions of equity. Sin is so shameful a thing that it cares not to own its name. Christ shall have a table written for Him also.
1. The character or description of Christ contained in that writing: "The King of the Jews."
2. The person who drew His character or title. Pilate, who was His judge, becomes now His herald to proclaim His glory.
3. The time when this honour was done Him. When at the lowest ebb; amid shame and reproach.
I. THE NATURE AND QUALITY OF CHRIST'S TITLE OR INSCRIPTION.
1. An extraordinary title. Instead of proclaiming Christ's crime, it vindicates His innocence.
2. Public. Written in three languages.
3. Honourable. Thus the cross became a throne of majesty.
4. A vindicating title.
5. A predicting and presaging title.
6. An immutable title.
II. WHAT HAND THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE HAD IN THIS BUSINESS.
1. In overruling the heart and hand of Pilate in the draught and style of it, and that contrary to his own inclination.
2. Herein the wisdom of Providence was gloriously displayed, in applying a present, proper, public remedy to the reproaches and blasphemies which Christ had then newly received in His name and honour. The superstitious Jews wound Him, and heathen Pilate prepares a plaster to heal Him: they reproach, he vindicates; they throw the dirt, he washes it off. Oh, the profound and inscrutable wisdom of Providence!
3. Moreover, Providence eminently appeared at this time, in keeping so timorous a person, a man of so base a spirit, that would not stick at anything to please the people, from receding or giving ground in the least to their importunities.
4. Herein also much of the wisdom of Providence appeared, in casting the ignominy of the death of Christ upon those very men who ought to bear it. Pilate was moved by Divine instinct at once to clear Christ and accuse them.
5. The Providence of God wonderfully discovered itself (as before was noted) in fixing this title to the cross of Christ, when there was so great a confluence of all sorts of people to take noticeInference
1. Hence it fellows that the Providence of our God can and often doth overrule the counsels and actions of the worst of men to His own glory. He is never at a loss for means to promote and serve His own ends.
2. Hence likewise it follows, that the greatest services performed to Christ accidentally and undesignedly, shall never be accepted nor rewarded of God. Pilate did Christ an eminent piece of service. He did that for Christ that not one of His own disciples at that time durst do; and yet this service was not accepted of God, because he did it not designedly for His glory, but from the mere overrulings of Providence.
3. Would not Pilate recede from what he had written on Christ's behalf? How shameful a thing is it for Christians to retract what they have said or done on Christ's behalf?
4. Did Pilate affix such an honourable, vindicating title to the cross? Then the cross of Christ is a dignified cross. How did the martyrs glory in their sufferings for Christ? Calling their chains of iron, chains of gold; and their manacles, bracelets. I remember it is storied of Ludovicus Marsacus, a knight of France, that when he, with divers other Christians of an inferior rank and degree in the world, were condemned to die for religion, and the jailor had bound them with chains, but did not bind him, being a more honourable person than the rest, he was offended greatly by that omission, and said, "Why do you not honour me with a chain for Christ also, and create me a knight of that illustrious order?"
5. Did Pilate so stiffly assert and defend the honour of Christ? What doubt can then be made of the success of Christ's interest, and the prosperity of His cause, when the very enemies thereof are made to serve it? Rather than Christ shall want honour, Pilate, the man that condemned Him, shall do Him honour. And as it fared with His person, just so with His interest also.
6. Did Pilate vindicate Christ in drawing up such a title to be affixed to His cross, then hence it follows that God will, sooner or later, clear up the innocence and integrity of His people who commit their cause to Him.
Parallel VersesKJV: And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.