A Title written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin
Gospel writers, Luke and John, tell us the languages used on the superscription over the cross. “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (Jn 19:20), was writ large over the centre tree in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Generally speaking, Hebrew was the religious language, Greek was the common language of the Empire, reflecting the culture, philosophies and ideas of the day and Latin was the language of politics and rule.
The world system in all its variegated forms rejected the Lord Jesus at Golgotha, saying in essence that there was no room for him in the world.
By way of application Hebrew as the religious language corresponds to the office of a priest. The Hebrew people were to be “a kingdom of priests” (Ex 19:6) in the world. The role of the priest was to mediate between God and men and intercede on behalf of others. Though Israel had largely failed to bring the nations to God, the fact remains that the Hebrew people, and thus their language indicate a priestly function.
The Greek language corresponded to the office of a prophet. Athens was the epicentre of philosophical thought in the ancient world; Epicurean and Stoic (Ac 17:18) ideology permeated ancient culture, and it was this language that reflected the belief systems and religious thoughts of the day. The Greek language was the prophet that preached to people.
The Latin language was the language of rule in the Roman Empire. Latin was synonymous with law, politics and power, which tells us that the superscription written in Latin corresponds to the office of King.
Marvin R Vincent thinks along similar lines saying:
As the national Hebrew, King of the Jews was translated into Latin and Greek, so the inscription was prophetic that Christ should pass into civil administration and common speech: that the Hebrew Messiah should become equally the deliverer of Greek and Roman: that as Christ was the real center of the religious civilization of Judaism, so He should become the real center of the world's intellectual movement as represented by Greece, and of its legal and material civilization as represented by Rome. The three civilizations which had prepared the way for Christ thus concentrated at His cross. The cross is the real center of the world's history.
In these three languages we see that the Lord Jesus was rejected at the cross as prophet, priest and king. The shame of being impaled to a Roman cross was a complete repudiation of the person of Christ and his offices.
These offices are abundantly clear in the life of the Lord Jesus. As the Word made flesh (Jn 1:14), he was the one that communicated to the people all that God was – he was the prophet from heaven. Luke’s gospel particularly attests to the priestly office of the Lord Jesus as he issued his manifesto at the beginning of the gospel; he had come “to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Lk 4:18). As the only mediator between God and men (1 Tim 2:5), the man Christ Jesus is a priest without equal. Matthew would spell out to us the royal genealogy of the King (Mt 1), herald his coming with an official forerunner (Mt 3:2), and tell us “behold thy King cometh unto thee” (Mt 21:5). The life of the Lord clearly shows that he fulfilled every office.
However, prior to the cross the Jews said “away with him, away with him, crucify him” (Jn 19:15). Israel and the world did not want the Lord Jesus as prophet, priest or king.
This morning as we remember a crucified Saviour, we remember too, that he is coming again. Calvary was not the end of the prophet, priest and king narrative.
There is coming a day when heaven will be opened and the one called the Word of God (Rev 19:13) will smite the nations with the sword of his mouth (Rev 19:15). The prophetic voice of Christ will bring about awful judgement for those that have rejected him. Those that receive his word will know the Lord, because the prophet from heaven will write his law in their hearts (Jer 31:33). “They shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them” (Jer 31:34). God has said that he will “raise up unto thee (Israel) a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deut 18:15). The world in the days of the Roman Empire listened to the ideology and doctrine of Greek philosophy. The world today is the same, listening to philosophies that have no room for Christ. But there is coming a day when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14). Global knowledge of Christ and global teaching about him will be the hallmark of the day when he comes again.
The Lord Jesus is a priest for ever after the order Melchizadek (Ps 110:4), and one day he will be a “priest upon his throne” (Zech 6:13) in the temple of God. He will rule from the place where people come to meet God, interceding on their behalf forever. He is a merciful and faithful high priest and will comfort his people (Is 40:1), “heal their backsliding” (Hos 14:4), and wash them from defilement. He is a priest like no other and has said, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols” (Ez 36:25, NKJV).
Though Israel said “we have no king but Caesar” (Jn 19:15), we know that the cross was not the end of the King of the Jews. Irrevocably written down in the Old Testament is the fact that “the Lord shall be king over all the earth” (Zec 14:9), he is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev 19:16), every knee will bow before him and he will reign eternally.
The world rejected him and his offices 2000 years ago, but the world will see him again in all his glory and the majesty of his work as prophet, priest and king.
Vincent’s Word Sudies: https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/john-19.html