I spent most of my high school years not following Jesus. Not until my senior year did I go back to church, but even then I easily compartmentalized that aspect of my young life. Therefore, I was never really forced to acknowledge that I could possibly be — or at least be becoming — a Jesus freak, as D.C. Talk would put it.
Whereas our girls are forced to handle being labeled churchy girls. I think that’s what they call them. I’ve not heard the term Jesus freak lately.
I was thinking about this in reading John 19 when the Jewish people denied yet again God as their king.
John 19:14-16a (ESV)
14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. [Pilate] said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. …
How far God’s people have fallen: “We have no king but Caesar.” They have forgotten their king in God.
See, back in the Jewish nation’s early days, after they were rescued out of Egypt and when they’d begun to take the Promised Land, God served as their king, and he set up regional leaders, judges they were called. These judges were, like the kings to follow, inconsistent at best regarding their strength as God’s rulers. Samson epitomizes the time. He was potentially a great leader but fell victim to his own sin, and his people suffered.
Eventually the people ask Samuel the prophet (was he also a judge?) for a king to rule over them, as the nations around them had. They wanted one leader for the nation, forgetting that God had been that one. Samuel had been deeply grieved by their request. But God conceded to his rebellious people and encouraged Samuel saying that it wasn’t the prophet they were rejecting but God himself (1 Samuel 8:7).
So here we have the Jewish people once again opting for a human king, and one who wasn’t even a Jew. I’m uncertain whether they were simply trying to appeal to Pilate or if they actually believed what they were saying. Regardless, their rejection is clear.
Notice something else that followed.
John 19:16b-22 (ESV)
16 … So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 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. 21 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.'” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Now, I can appreciate the Jews’ concern about the semantics of Pilate’s sign. As a writer, I’m always aiming for accuracy in my descriptions. Is there a better word, could I phrase this to make what I’m saying clearer, is this confusing? These are the questions I ask myself as a writer.
Jesus claimed to be their king. They rejected him. And they wanted history to be accurate.
It’s always easy to blame the Jewish people, the ones that cried out, “Crucify him!” But I think it’s important here to ask myself how I reject God as my king. In what ways do I deny him? If I were to reflect at the end of the day, would I echo their proclamation: I had no king but myself today. Like the hyenas in The Lion King who thought a life without a king might just be a good thing.
We serve a king whose rule is just and whose law is peace. Might we ever acknowledge our status as his subjects.