Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19)
Thirdly, I see here that man’s chief objection to Christ is His authority, for the pith of that inscription was, “Jesus the King.” Pilate did not write, “This is Jesus the Teacher,” or many might have said, “Let Him teach what He pleases, it is no concern of ours. We do not care what the Seers see, or what they say.” Pilate did not put up, “This is Jesus the Priest.” Many would be quite content to let Him be the great High Priest if they also might be priests. But Pilate wrote, “This is Jesus the King,” and that is the target at which they shoot all their arrows!
You remember that the writer of the Second Psalm says, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” The resolve of human nature until it is renewed is always this, “We will not have this Man to reign over us.” Men might be willing for Christ to save them, but not for Him to reign over them. Such laws as these—“You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” “You shall forgive till seventy times seven,” the law of love, the law of gentleness, the law of kindness—man says that he admires them, but when these laws come home to him, and lay hold of the reins of his ambition, cramp his covetousness and condemn his self-righteousness, straightway he is offended!
And when Christ says, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” When He begins so teach the necessity of absolute purity and to say that even a lascivious glance of the eye is a sin, then men reply, “His rule will never do for us!” And they hang Him up to die because they will not submit to His authority. Once more, we learn from this narrative that man ridicules Christ’s Kingdom. Pilate did not hate Christ. He probably did not think enough of Him to expend any of His hatred upon Him. I have no doubt that he thought that Jesus was a poor enthusiast who had been living alone so long that He had addled His brains. He was well meaning and perhaps clever, but at the same time, not the sort of man for a Roman governor to dispute with.
He was very sorry to have to put Him to death, for there were so many good points about the poor Creature that he did not wish to let His enemies destroy Him. When the question of Christ’s Kingdom came up, I can imagine how scornfully Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” How contemptuously he must have looked down upon such a poor emaciated Creature who seemed to be despised by everybody, as Christ said, “My Kingdom is not of this world,” and Pilate asked, “Are You a king, then?” half laughing as he spoke. He must have felt as if he could fairly laugh Him to scorn and I have no doubt that it was in that spirit that he wrote, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews,” doing it in a vein of grim sardonic humor, first, towards the Jews and secondly, towards Christ Himself, as much as to say, “This is the great King that the Jews have been looking for.They are going to fight Caesar and get free—and this is the ringleader who is to help them to defeat all the legions of haughty Rome.”
Among the ungodly, at the present day, the idea of a spiritual kingdom is quite beyond their comprehension—they cannot make out what it is. The relation between Church and State will not be settled by the statesmen of any political party. There is a very singular relation between the two, though they are as dissimilar as materialism is from spirit. The realms of the two often overlap one another—you cannot draw a line and say, “So far is the State, and so far is the Church.” The fact is the true Church of God is never subordinate to the State— it moves in another sphere altogether and rules after another fashion! A spiritual kingdom, according to some people, means certain laws and regulations that are drawn up by the bishops and synods and councils, but that kind of kingdom is no more spiritual than an Act passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords!
It is only another kingdom of the flesh, an ecclesiastical State of a similar kind to the secular State, but as for the spiritual Kingdom of Jesus Christ, it is not a thing that you can see with your eyes or understand after the manner of men. “You must be born-again” in order to get into it, or even to see it! [See Sermon #3121, Volume 54—THE NECESSITY OF REGENERATION] It is too ethereal to be checked by human legislation. It is a mighty power which Christ has set up in this world—a power mightier than all secular states combined—a Kingdom like the stone cut out of the mountain without hands which will break in pieces every other power and fill the whole earth in God’s appointed time! Oh, that we saw its power more manifest nowadays in the hearts of men—the power of that Kingdom of which Christ is the King, this blessed Book is the Law, the Holy Spirit is the great Executive and each of us is a servant in the courts of the great King living and acting according to His will!
“Oh,” you say, “this is ridiculous!” Yes, I thought you would say that. That is what the world always says of the Kingdom of Christ—that it is ridiculous. They can understand a kingdom in which there is a head like the Pope, and in which there are cardinals, bishops and priests. They can understand the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Archbishop of York, and all that appertains to Episcopalians, but to know that we are one with Christ, that He has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, that His saints are to reign with Him forever and that the weapons of our warfare, though not eternal, are “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds”—they do not understand it, nor do they want to understand it!
This is why they still hang up Christ the King and say, “If this is His Kingdom, we do not want to belong to it and we do not believe in it. Away with it! It is not worthy of our consideration, it is only a few low- minded fellows who will always be the subjects of such a Kingdom as that.” This is “as it was in the beginning” and “is now”—but not as it “ever shall be, world without end,” for the King is coming, a second time, in all the splendor of His Glory and He will let the world know that although His Kingdom is not like others, and is not to be kept up by gold, pomp, rank, dignity and physical force, yet it is a Kingdom which shall last when earthly princes and thrones shall all have passed away! And everyone who belongs to that Kingdom shall possess a crown and a glory before which all the pomp of this world shall pale forever! (source)