The Title

And Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it upon the cross over His head. And the writing was: This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. This title, therefore, many of the Jews read, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near to the city, and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate: "Write not, 'The King of the Jews', but that He said, I am the King of the Jews. Pilate answered: "What I have written I have written." - Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19-22

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1. The sentence had been pronounced, and had been promptly carried out; no time had been allowed for reflection or for cooler judgment; the chief priests had seen to this, as the Devil sees to it when he has once won the soul to consent to grievous sin. The only thing that Pilate could now do was to justify himself in the eyes of all the world; the world was his judge, not God, nor truth, of which he affected to know nothing. So he wrote with his own hand the "title," "in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin," so that all the world might know. "This is Jesus of Nazareth," the man from turbulent Galilee, from despised Nazareth, who had of late disturbed the peace of Jerusalem, and had made Himself a trouble to authority. "This is the King of the Jews," the one thing of which He had been convicted; before Pilate himself He had said: "Thou sayest that I am a King"; and though He had not said, "I am King of the Jews," though He had added, "My kingdom is not from hence," though Pilate had known for certain that His Kingship would not clash with the authority of Caesar, still, the half-truth must be proclaimed that the execution might be justified. The world is ruled by half-truths.

2. But this was not enough for His enemies. Pilate may have sentenced Him on the ground that He made Himself a King, but they had done Him to death "because He made Himself the Son of God." Either Our Lord was the "King of the Jews" or He was not. If He was, then He was also Messias, and Messias was the Son of David, and the Son of David was the Son of God. If He was not, then He would have been put to death, not by Jewish law, which had no such sentence, but by Roman law alone; and the chief priests would be exculpated. To leave the "title" as it stood might set the people thinking; they might argue along the line we have just mentioned, and the conclusion might make "the last state worse than the first."

3. But Pilate was unmoved, unmoved with the desperation of one who knows he has done great wrong, and who turns in hate upon those who have driven him to it. He knew he had done wrong; he knew that now they were saying in their hearts,: "What is that to us? Look you to it" He knew, too, on Our Lord's own evidence that "they who have delivered Me to thee have the greater sin"; therefore, if he could he would deprive them of their palm of victory. He would thwart them if he could, insult them if he could; if this "title" did not please them, then all the more would he insist upon it. But why did it not please them? "He knew that for envy they had delivered Him." Their very fear snowed that the man was their King, and that they knew it. Then, let come what might, he had saved himself in the eyes of the world; he had left them guilty and responsible; he would leave written what he had written.


1. Pilate called Him "King of the Jews" to save his own reputation.

2. The chief priests resented it for fear of theirs.

3. Pilate found satisfaction in turning on those who had led him into crime.

- from The Crown of Sorrow, by Archbishop Alban Goodier