Labeled: “The King of the Jews”

Mar. 28, 2012

Luke 23:38

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

People are often quite particular about their name. We like to have our name spelt right, pronounced correctly and personalized. When mail comes addressed to “The Vielhuber Household,” I know we are one of a whole bunch of people who have received this impersonalized letter.

I’ve spent much of my life as Diane; even though it really is Dianne. I can spot a telemarketer within five seconds of answering the phone because they never quite know how to pronounce our last name. And when I met someone who knows Rick for the first time, I can often tell what era he or she first became acquainted with him. If they knew him in grade school or younger, he is Ricky. A high school classmate? They call him Rich. Folks after high school call him Rick. I’ve never heard him called Dick, who is my Dad, even though they both have the proper name of Richard.

All four gospel accounts mention a sign identifying who Jesus is. But each gospel has the inscription just slightly different:

Matthew’s Gospel: This is Jesus the King of the Jews

Mark’s Gospel: The King of the Jews

Luke’s Gospel: This is the King of the Jews

John’s Gospel: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews

People who love details may question why the four authors can’t agree on something seemingly so simple. But then again, how many pieces of mail do you or I receive in a year with the wrong name?

I believe the chosen words have to do with who the desired audience the gospel author is writing to. What they do all agree is that this man is the King of the Jews. Did Pilate really believe this when he asked for the inscription to state this? I view it more as a taunt than a declaration.

In some ways, this insignia becomes Jesus’ grave marker. When we die, our remains are buried in a specific location and a marker is put on this sight to designate whose remains are located in this plot. While Jesus’ body goes into a garden tomb, it’s not necessary to have a marker outside the tomb after the body is gone. It is only at the crucifixion that he is identified.

So many details that happened as a part of Jesus’ crucifixion seem ironic or odd to be recorded. As a detail lover myself, I sometimes wish for more details. As we continue to explore this story, may we ponder why specific details are included and their importance. Through details, each gospel account becomes more personalized. No, the details will not all be the same. But that’s OK because I know Ricky, Rich and Rick are all my husband.

Let us pray: We will glorify the King of kings; we will glorify the Lamb. We will glorify the Lord of lords, who is the great I Am. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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