When they asked the question, it was with such promise. When they used the title, it was with a hush of reverence. When they offered their gifts, it was to give glory and honor to the name.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” . . . . And going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
(Matthew 2:1-2, 11 ESV)
This is what came to mind this morning as I was reading in John 19. These nativity scene crashers. Magi who were most likely never around the manger. Showing up perhaps one or two years after the birth of Jesus. “Going into the house,” not gathering around the stable. Yet, just as determined as those shepherds in the field to go and “see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us” (Lk. 2:15). And when they arrived, they magnified the Child revealed to them to be the king of the Jews. An idyllic scene. Homage fit for a king. Treasures worthy of a sovereign. A response befitting a king.
Fast forward some thirty-plus years, and how different the wise men before the Child in Mary’s arms were from the fools who stood before the Man on the cross. Whereas the magi wondered and worshiped, the mob chided and choked before the One declared to be the King of the Jews.
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
(John 19:19-22 ESV)
Apart from the mystery of the myrrh, on that night the magi visited, there was no indicator of how the baby King would become the Savior of His people. Though Herod would threaten the Child’s life, no understanding that Jesus was born to die at the hands of men so that He might rescue and redeem a people from the cruel bondage of sin. As they lauded Him as King, they couldn’t imagine those who would take offence at His title and recklessly declare, “We have no king but Caesar” (Jn. 19:15).
So the scene of the angry mob that day stands in stark contrast to the nativities that capture our imagination during this season–both centered around the King of the Jews. Reflective of those who still seek Him today, and of those who bristle at any acknowledgement of His right to rule.
Regardless of the response, however, Almighty God uses a lowly governor to declare, “What I have written I have written.”
Behold the King of the Jews. The promise of Israel. A Light for the world. The Savior for all who believe. This is the way it is!
The King of Heaven, born as a baby. The King of Heaven, berated before men. The King of Heaven, offering Himself as the Lamb of God. The King of Heaven, coming again in glory and majesty. So shall it be.
What I have written I have written.
O come let us adore Him!
Amazed at such grace. In awe of such glory.