The King Question

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When Yeshua was arrested in the Garden, Simon Peter cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. Here is a little Bible quiz: What was the servant’s name? That’s right – Malchus. Here is another question: What does his name mean?

The Gospels were written in Greek by native Hebrew speakers.  The name Malchus has no meaning in Greek. The name is Melech. Melech מ-ל-כ in Hebrew means “king”.

It strikes me that John added this detail as a symbolic hint that the next two chapters speak of Yeshua as king. John 18 and 19 provide the most profound spiritual explanation of Yeshua’s role as king found anywhere.

There are five sections to this explanation:

  1. Pilate’s interview with Yeshua
  2. Soldiers mocking Him
  3. Crowds chanting rejection
  4. High Priests allegiance to Caesar
  5. Written sign above the cross.

The examination starts with a question.

John 18:33 – Pilate asked Yeshua…, “Are you king of the Jews?”

Instead of answering yes or no, Yeshua asks Pilate on what basis he asked the question. The reason Yeshua asked Pilate that is that there are two parts of the question.

  1. Are you a political figure raising a rebellion against Caesar? The answer – No.
  2. Are you a king of a different kind? The answer – Yes.

Therefore, we also have to be clear on the two halves of the issue. We are not leading an armed rebellion. But we are proclaiming the Messiah, who is the anointed king representing God’s authority.

Yeshua tells Pilate that He is indeed a king. His kingdom originates in Heaven (18:36). It has heavenly authority that is above the political governments of this world (19:11). His kingdom is based on spiritual truth (18:37). Ultimately this kingdom of heavenly authority and spiritual truth will take over all the governments of this world, when Yeshua returns.

After the discussion with Pilate, his soldiers begin to abuse Yeshua.

John 19:2-3 – The soldiers put a crown on His head that they had woven from thorns, and dressed Him in a purple robe. They came up to Him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

This bizarre mocking of Yeshua was actually a mirror image of the truth. It was like a theater production in reverse. One day, all the soldiers of this world, and all the rest of the wielders of political, economic and military power will bow before Yeshua and recognize Him as their King and Lord.

The Gospel message proclaims that “every knee will bow” (Isaiah 45:23, Philippians 2:10). Yeshua is announced spiritually as King. All human beings are called to submit to Him. Those who receive Yeshua as king now are invited into His kingdom. Those who mock Him now will still receive Him as king, but in punishment instead of blessing.

In this case, the soldiers were Romans, Gentiles, representatives of their king, Caesar. They were mocking Yeshua not only as a king, but mocking Him as a Jew; and thereby mocking also the Jewish people. For them this was another example of Roman dominion over Jews.

Yeshua is then presented before the crowds in three different dimensions or identities:

  1. John 19:5 – Behold the Man, “Ide Anthropos
  2. John 19:7 – the Son of God, “Ihos Theos”
  3. John 19:14 – Behold your King, “Ide Basileos”

Pilate brought Yeshua out before the crowds of people. He said, “Behold the Man.” (The word for man in Greek is “Anthropos”, from which we have words like anthropology and anthropomorphism.) The biblical reference goes all the way back to Adam, the first Man. Here He is, Yeshua, representing the drama and trauma of the human race. Yeshua is the ultimate human being.

The response of the people there is “Crucify Him!” The perversion is so deep and so weird. These are human beings cursing the human race. These are Jews cursing the ultimate Jew, and thereby cursing themselves.

Then the Priests (cohanim) say that the reason He should be crucified is that He made Himself out to be the Son of God (19:7). The people dealt with Him as a Man; the soldiers dealt with Him as a King; the priests dealt with Him as Son of God.  Each group reacted according to their own area of concern.

The Priests continue in their effort to have the death penalty executed on Yeshua.  When they see Pilate is wavering, they change their tactic. They see that the theological argument about the divinity of the Messiah is not affecting Pilate. They switch to talking to him in the area of his vulnerability: his job representing Caesar.

John 19:12 – If you free Him, you are not a friend of Caesar; because anyone who makes himself a king is rebelling against Caesar.

In a certain sense, the Priests are betraying their own function by challenging Pilate not to betray his function. Then they totally deny their faith altogether:

John 19:17 – We have no king but Caesar.

As Jewish Priests of YHVH, this declaration is beyond comprehension.  They choose a Gentile politician instead of the Jewish God; they choose a Gentile tyrant instead of the Jewish king.  This rejection of Yeshua was illogical and self-destructive.

The pre-crucifixion drama comes to its finale as Pilate sends Yeshua out to be crucified and commands the soldiers to put a sign over His head, which ironically and officially declares that Yeshua is indeed the King of the Jews.

John 19:19 – Pilate wrote a sign and set it on the cross, and this was its inscription: Yeshua of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

The area of the crucifixion was on the main road just outside the gate to Jerusalem.  Therefore, the sign was seen by many people.  It was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, covering all the areas of population in Caesar’s empire.

The Priests protested, saying that this could be interpreted as affirming Him as King instead of condemning His self-exaltation.  John records that Pilate answered, John 19:22 – What I have written, I have written. John sees Pilate’s decision as a divine intervention.

In John’s view, Pilate is prophesying, much as the High Priest prophesied Yeshua’s crucifixion (John 11:50).  The prophecy is given by the representative of the emperor: This Yeshua is the Man, who will be the King, who will one day replace him.

On the cross, Yeshua prayed out loud for the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 23:34). In addition to the verbal message, there is the written message, that Yeshua is king of the Jews.  By word of mouth, Yeshua proclaims our salvation.  On the same cross, by written inscription, Pilate proclaims Yeshua’s kingdom.  We receive both the oral message and the written: the salvation and the kingdom.

Yeshua is the Malchus, King of the Jews. It was predestined by heaven and then decreed by the Roman governor. It is legal; it is official; it is settled; it is written.

This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, May 21, 2020, and reposted with permission.