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Having carried out their orders to crucify Jesus, the quaternion of soldiers assigned to the task kept watch over Him as He died lest He somehow escape, perhaps through His disciples who might try to rescue Him.  But He freely laid down His life, else their whole legion could not have taken it from Him.  And His disciples were in nature sheep with no ability within themselves to mount any sort of rescue.  And so, as it was, they were able to simply sit down to fulfill their assignment.  Perhaps because the soldiers were so accustomed to seeing those suffer and die who—like all of us—were in some way guilty and just getting their due, as they were confronted with His nature and observed the way He died and the extraordinary events that occurred, they became clearly impressed that Jesus was no ordinary man; Mat 27:50-54.  It is therefore not unlikely that as the gospel spread to the Gentiles some of these became believers themselves.  And because of their assignment to watch Him die and being nearest in proximity to the cross, it is also probable that some of our information about Jesus’ last words on the cross came to us through them.

What else does Matthew record that these soldiers did after crucifying Him?  See Mat 27:37.  What was the purpose of the inscription they placed above His head on the cross?  Cf. Mar 15:26.  Recall that king was synonymous in the minds of the Jews with messiah or anointed one, and that in spite of the many false accusations that the religious leaders sought to charge against Jesus, it was this one that they pressed as most likely to obtain their desired verdict from Pilate, since the Romans were especially guarded against any nationalist uprising; cf. Mat 26:63-66.  What is the significance that the charge for which Jesus was ultimately crucified in this world was true?  Cf. Isa 5:20.  What does this remind us about the hostility this fallen world has for God and His servants, and how those who love this world are diametrically opposed to His reign?  Cf. Heb 11:38a, Rom 8:5-7.

Although they didn’t want to be responsible for it and sought to pin it on Judas and the Romans, from the inscription of the charge for which He was crucified, can there be any doubt in heaven’s courts that the religious leaders put Jesus to death because they rejected Him as their Messiah, the king of the Jews?  What was the significance of this clear evidence against them to God’s jurisprudence in establishing His kingdom on earth?  Cf. Mat 21:38-39,43.  Although the religious leaders and their followers were obtaining their desire against Jesus and supposed they had triumphed legally, in what way were they in fact being judged guilty in God’s higher court?  What does this teach us about the way that God is able even in this age to judge the secret thoughts and intentions of men’s hearts through Christ Jesus, and the lengths He is willing to go not only to save men, but to administer justice to His enemies?  Cf. Rom 2:16.  Is it possible that Christians today could reject Jesus at His second coming in a similar way because in spite of their religion, in their hearts they really don’t want Jesus to reign over them as King?  Cf. Luk 19:12-14,27.  Is it also possible that God would use us, similar to the way He used Jesus, to judge the secrets of men in His higher court of heaven?  Cf. Joh 12:24-26.

Who does John say was responsible for writing the inscription with the charge against Jesus that was affixed to the cross?  See Joh 19:19.  How big must the inscription have been?  See Joh 19:20.  Note that the word John uses for inscription is different from that used by Mark and Luke; in Greek it is τίτλος, from which we get our word title.  Hence again, the title ascribed to Jesus by Pilate in identifying the crime for which He was executed was that He was the king of the Jews.  How did the bystanders and even the other criminals understand the charge against Jesus?  See Mar 15:32, Luk 23:35-39.  Although most understood the title sarcastically as mocking Jesus for supposing Himself to be a king, what offense did the Jewish leaders take at this title, and how did they want it changed?  See Joh 19:21.  Why was the title as written offensive to them?  How does their request that Pilate change the inscription demonstrate the worm that was already gnawing at their conscience, and why in spite of their attempts to pin Jesus’ death on Judas and the Romans, they still could not escape their own guilt and the culpability which God’s justice was heaping upon them by the circumstances?  Think: just as Judas’ eyes were opened when he saw that Jesus didn’t defend Himself but was condemned to death, so that he was awakened to the culpability others would cast upon him for his deed, in what similar way were the eyes of the religious leaders now also opened when they saw the inscription Pilate had written and they began to realize the different sense in which others could understand He was a king, and the ignominy that would be cast upon them for their deed?  See Mat 27:4,24; cf. Gen 3:5,7, Act 5:28.  Considering that Pilate clearly understood that Jesus was no ordinary man and made multiple and extraordinary attempts to release Him before succumbing to the political pressure and giving in to the demands of the crowd incited by the religious leaders (Mat 27:24, Joh 19:4-6,11-15), is it possible that he wasn’t just being sarcastic in the title he wrote for the charge against Jesus, but also making a statement, like getting in the last word as a silent protest, perhaps even in faith that in spite of his own moral weakness under the circumstances, he might somehow mollify his guilt for the outcome that was against his better judgment?  See Joh 19:22; cf. Deut 29:24-25, Jer 22:8-9, Mat 12:41-42, 27:18.  In this light, who also may stand up with that generation and condemn it for having crucified One that even he as a Gentile recognized to be of royal blood?  See also Jer 40:1-3.

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