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The Cross as Enthronement

“John omits any details which might suggest pity for the victim. On the contrary, the crucifixion is described as an enthronement in which the kings gives gifts of bounty to his people. The title on the cross, about which all four Gospels are substantially agreed, is a proclamation not only to Israel but to the whole world that Jesus is king. The writing of the title in the three languages makes the enthronement an international event. John brings out the immense seriousness of the title on the cross by his report of the argument between Pilate and the Jews. Does Pilate, driven against his will to condemn an innocent man, wish to carry his public mockery of the Jews still further? Or does he wish to assert his own belief that Jesus is in some sense a king? Perhaps both motives are present. For the Jewish leaders the title is an intolerable affront. . . . They demand that the title be amended to make clear that the claim to kingship is not acknowledged. But at this point Pilate, who has been driven to such helpless vacillation between the prisoner and his accusers, suddenly becomes firm. He refuses absolutely to alter the title, and the reader knows that what he has written will stand, not because Pilate is stubborn, but because he is the unwitting witness of the truth. On the cross, Jesus reigns.”

~ Lesslie Newbigin, The Light has Come, 252-53.


  1. Dan wrote:

    I’ve also thought that Pilate, in order to justify the crucifixion, needed to make this pronouncement exactly as he did. Would crucifixion be justified if this was merely a claim to kingship? Not just Pilate, but as Rome’s official representative, his judgment and proclamation “unwittingly” gives the kingship of Jesus legitimacy just as governments today or given legitimacy if a foreign government recognizes them.

    Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  2. Skip Newby wrote:

    I guess Pilate got his question answered.

    Friday, April 17, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

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