And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he said to the Jews, Behold your King!
It is not easy to decide in what spirit these words were spoken by Pilate. Certainly the Roman governor was not deceived into believing that Jesus made a claim to a temporal sovereignty which might conflict with the Roman dominion. Certainly he could not expect to move the Jews to pity by representing Jesus as One who had in some way authority among them, a claim to their regard; for they had delivered him up on the charge of assuming royalty. It would seem as if Pilate took a pleasure in angering and insulting the priests and Pharisees, whom he hated and despised as he did the nation whom they headed and guided. He had no motive for ridiculing Jesus; he had a motive for scoffing at the Jews. He could not but recognize the superiority of the august and patient Sufferer before him over the hypocritical priests and the fanatical mob who demanded that Sufferer's death. And even when yielding, for his own safety's sake, to the unjust and clamorous request of Jesus' enemies, he gratified his own scorn of the Jewish rulers and people, first by summoning them to behold their King, and then by causing the inscription to be placed upon his cross, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." The language which Pilate uttered in derision, and which the Jews rejected in their wrath, is nevertheless language which contains precious and glorious truth.
I. THE GROUND OF CHRIST'S KINGSHIP. Earthly sovereigns come to the throne sometimes by right of conquest, sometimes in virtue of inheritance, sometimes by means of election. Now, Jesus is King:
1. By Divine appointment and native right. "Yet," ran the prophecy, "have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." He is Christ, i.e. the Anointed, and he is anointed Monarch of mankind. Men's recognition or rejection of him makes no difference as to the fact. In the very nature of things, because he is Son of God, he is the rightful Ruler.
2. By mediatorial acquisition. He is Prophet and Priest, and therefore King. In order that his rightful sovereignty might become an actual sovereignty, the Lord Jesus was obedient unto death, and purchased his own inheritance. The cross was the means by which he won the throne.
II. THE REALM OVER WHICH CHRIST EXERCISES HIS SWAY.
1. His kingdom is differenced from the kingdoms of this world in that it is not over the outward actions, the life merely, of men. He does not reign by the scepter and the sword. He has no palace, no army, none of the paraphernalia of earthly royalty.
2. Our Lord's kingdom is spiritual; it is first and chiefly a dominion over the hearts, the convictions, and the affections of men. He sets up his throne in the inner being and nature of his subjects; and if he rules over their speech and actions, it is because he first rules over their thoughts and desires. All his true subjects, therefore, are such willingly, and not by constraint.
III. THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST'S ROYAL DOMINION. Our Lord Jesus combines in himself the two supreme attributes of government.
1. He is the Legislator King. He promulgates the laws which his subjects are bound to study, to respect, and to obey. The laws of earthly kingdoms are sometimes unjust. But Christ's laws are supremely righteous; they are commandments of God himself; only the authority which properly belongs to them is penetrated with a spirit of grace and kindness.
2. He is the judicial King. He enforces his own edicts. He is the Judge alike of the Church and of the world. He demands submission and obedience. And from the sanctions of his rule none can escape. His friends shall be exalted, and foes and rebels shall be placed beneath his feet.
IV. THE EXTENT AND DURATION OF CHRIST'S KINGSHIP.
1. His kingdom is universal. When Jesus, in his parables, spoke of the kingdom of God as destined to include all nations, nothing could have seemed to ordinary listeners less likely of fulfillment than such a prediction. And when he himself was crucified, what prospect there was of dominion to be exercised by him must, in the view of most men, have vanished utterly. Yet our Savior's dominion has been constantly extending, and is still taking in new provinces. And faith realizes the approach of the time when "the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ."
2. His kingdom is immortal. Of states and empires historians have written the decline and fall; no earthly kingdom can resist the law of decay to which all things human appear subject. Of Christ's kingdom, however, "there is no end;" it is "from everlasting to everlasting."
1. Let attention be given to this Divine Monarch. "Behold your King!" Of all beings he first claims the regard of men.
2. Let his dignity and authority be recognized. When Pilate pointed the gaze of the multitude to Jesus, his was a disguised royalty, for Jesus was "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;" and his was a derided, insulted royalty, for he had been clothed in mockery with a purple robe, and a crown of thorns had pierced his head.
3. Let homage, reverence, loyalty, devotion, be rendered to him to whom they are justly due. Truly to behold Christ is to discern his just claim to all that our heart, our life, can offer. His sovereignty is absolute, and our obligation to him is unlimited. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!