THE SUPERSCRIPTIO' AFFIXED TO THE CROSS.
BY REV. CHARLES SIMEO, M.A.
John xix. 19 — 22. A?id Pilate urote a title, and put it on ihj
cross. And the writing was, jesus of nazarkth the king
OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jeius : for
the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city : and
it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then
said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, JVrite not, The
King of the Jews, hut that he said, I am King of the Jews.
Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written.
OTHIG was left undone which could add to
the sufferings of our blessed Lord. From the tri-
bunal at which he was condemned, he was hurried
away to execution, and crucified between two most
notorious malefactors, as being himself the vilest of
the human race. This however served only to fulfil
the Scripture, which had said, *' He was numbered
with the transgressors." On such occasions it was
common to place above the head of the criminal an
inscription, by which all the spectators might know
both his name, and the crime for which he suffered.
This was observed at the cracifixion of our Lord :
and (as no circumstance respecting him is unin-
teresting) we shall call your attention to,
I. The superscription put over him — ¦
This, however intended at first, must certainly be
considered by us in a two-fold view ;
204 JOH, XIX. 19—22. [841.
1 . As an accusation against him —
The principal charge which had been exhibited Against
him before Pilate, was, that he had professed himself to be
*' Christ, a King^" On this point he had been interrogated
by Pilate ; and had " witnessed a good confession," acknow-
ledging plainly, that he was a King, though his kingdom was
not of this workP. Pilate, seeing that this claim did not at
all interfere with the temporal government of Cesar, con-
sidered it as unworthy his attention ; and therefore sought by
all possible means to release him. But the chief priests,
being determined to prevail, represented this claim of his as
an avowed hostility to Cesar ; and declared that the protect-
ing of Jesus was nothing less than treason ^ This terrified
Pilate into a compliance with their wishes. He instantly
consented to his death ; and, according to custom, ordered
the crime of which Jesus was accused to be affixed to his
cross, in these memorable words, "Jesus of azareth the
King of the Jews."]
2. As a testimony in his favour —
[As Caiaphas, when designing only to destroy Jesus,
unconsciously declared the extensive benefits which would
flow from his death, so Pilate, meaning only to inform the
people for what reason Jesus was put to death, unintentio-
nally attested his innocence. Had Jesus falsely pretended to
be the King of the Jews, he would have been guilty of fraud
and imposture : but as he really was what he pretended to
be, the title placed over his head was nothing more than a
plain truth, containing not only no crime at all, but not even
the smallest charge of crime. What could be a stronger testi-
mony in his favour than this ?
The testimony itself contained the most important truth
tliat could possibly be affirmed : it declared that Jesus was
the King of Israel, that very king predicted in the Prophets **,
even " Messiah the Prince, who should be cut off, not for his
own sins%" but for the sins of others. And, that it might be
universally known, it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and
Latin ; (the three languages most known in the world at that
time :) so that, in fact, Pilate liimself became the first preacher
of a crucified Redeemer.]
Whether the precise mode of expressing the accu-
sation was intentional on the 'part of Pilate, or not,
we cannot but wonder at,
• Luke xxiii. 2. •'John xviii. 36, 37- & 1 Tim. i. 10.
• ver. 12. ^ Jer. xxlii. 5^6. Zech. ix, 9.
• Dan. ix. 26.
841.] SUPERSCRIPTIO AFFIXED TO THE CROSS. 205
II. The firmness of Pilate in relation to it —
That the superscription would give great offence,
we may easily conceive : for the priests, so far from
acknowledging Jesus as their King, had got sentence
of death pronounced against him for arrogating to
himself that honour. They did indeed expect the
promised Messiah, and supposed that he would erect
a temporal kingdom amongst them; and this very
expectation made them feel still more keenly the
indignity which this inscription offered them ; since
it intimated, that any person who should hereafter
attempt to rescue them from the dominion of Cesar,
should be crucified in like manner.
Without delay they make known to Pilate their
wishes upon the subject, and propose an alteration
in the words : but behold, he is firm and immove-
able : his only answer to them is, " What I have
written, I have written."
ow to understand his answer aright, we must
1. As incensed against them —
[They had urged, and (so to speak) compelled him to
give sentence against a man whom he knew to be innocent :
and, being condemned in his own conscience, he could not
but feel exceedingly displeased with them. The alteration
which they proposed in the inscription was very trifling: it
might have been made without in the least derogating from
his authority : and, no doubt, if he had not been offended with
them, he would have readily complied. But to a person irri-
tated, no concession appears trifling. He felt himself injured
by them ; and therefore would not give way, even for a mo-
ment. His pride was hurt ; and he determined that he would
make them sensible of his displeasure. Hence he not only
refused their petition, but expressed his refusal in terms most
authoritative, most contemptuous, and most repulsive.]
2. As over-ruled hj God —
[Though perfectly free to follow the dictates of his own
mind, he was undoubtedly under the influence of God; just as
Balaam was, who though of himself disposed to curse Israel,
was invariably constrained to bless them^ The truth exhi-
bited in that inscription was itself unalterable, and was to be
proclaimed to every people of every language under heaven.
' umb. xxii. IS, 38. & xxiii. 8,11,12,25. & xxiv. 10,13.
206 JOH, XIX. }Q~12, [841.
It was the corner-stone on which all mankind were to build
tlieir hopes : and therefore God, who had left Pilate to his
natural timidity for the crucifying of his Son, now emboldened
him to withstand their renewed solicitations, though in a
matter of comparatively no importance «.
Thus it was on that occasion, and thus it ever shall be;
" the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand, and he will do all
his will." As far as " the wrath of man will praise him," he
will suffer it to act ; but the remainder of it he will restrain.]
We may notice from hence,
1 . What care God will take of his people — •
[He permitted his Son to be put to death, because that was
necessary for the accomplishment of the Divine purposes in the
work of redemption. But betook care that all his enemies should
attest his innocence : and where so small a concession as that
before us might have counteracted their testimony, he makes
a poor shaking reed as firm and immoveable as a rock. Who
then will be afraid to trust liim? Who will not cheerfully
Commit his reputation, his interest, yea his very life, into the
hands of such an almighty Friend ? Know, Beloved, that he
is to his people both a sun and a shield ; and that whilst
he directs and invigorates them by his beams, he will protect
and uphold them by his power — " The Lord reigneth,
let the earth rejoice, and the multitude of the Isles be glad
2. In what way they must attain to his kingdom —
[That which is the highest privilege of the saints may be
made the strongest article of accusation against them. In the
primitive times, to be a Christian was to expose oneself to all
manner of calumny and danger. And thus at this time, to be
numbered with the saints is to be classed with enthusiasts,
fools, and hypocrites. A man need have no other inscription
over his head than, " This is one of the saints," and he shall
never want for contempt and hatred. Let him call himself
" a King," and men will be ready to cry out, " Crucify him !
crucify him !" But this should not discourage us : it is the
way the Saviour trod before us. We, like him, are kings ^ ;
we have a crown and " a kingdom given to us ' :" and in due
time shall be *' seated with Christ on his throne, even as he
now sitteth on his Father's throned" But we must " suffer
with him, if we would reign with himV Even he, " though a
Son, was made perfect through sufferings ;" and we also must
" go through much tribulation, before we can enter into the
kingdom of heaven"*." Let us then consider what he endured
» Acts iv. 27, 28. ^ Rev. i. 6. ' Luke xxil. 29.
•^ Rev, iii, 21. '2 Tim. ii. 12. °' Acts xiv. 22.
for us; and "let us arm ourselves with the same mind":"
and let us rest assured, that, " if we suffer with him, we shall
also be glorified together**."]
" 1 Pet. iv. 1. 'Rom. viii< 17.
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