”There was a shocking photograph in the newspaper the other day. A cart was being driven through the streets of a city in the Far East. On the cart were standing fifteen or twenty men. Round the neck of each, hanging from a string, was a notice. On the notice was written the particular crime they were accused of. When they reached the end of their journey, so the report said, they were taken off the cart. Two of the men were selected, and were publicly beheaded. The others were taken back to prison, to await the pleasure of the government. The purpose of the notices was obvious. They were to rub in the point to the people who were watching (and there were plenty of people watching): that’s what will happen if you get up to this sort of thing. The ‘sort of thing’ in question was actions or teachings which the government interpreted as being revolutionary. The Romans used more or less exactly the same system. That’s what’s going on when Pilate places a notice above Jesus’ head on the cross. Sometimes condemned Roman prisoners, like the ones in the newspaper, carried the notice around their neck on the way to the place of execution, so that all the more people could see, and take warning.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, Part 2, p.125.
It is interesting to note that ”the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.” It was Passover time in Jerusalem. The population of the city would be significantly swollen with pilgrims visiting from many parts. But wherever you came from in the world of that day, you would probably be able to speak one of these three languages. Aramaic was the local language; Greek was almost universal in the wider world (much like English is today), and Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire. Jesus is for the world (John 3:16) and so the whole world must be able to hear about Him in intelligible terms. In order to bring a message to any people, we must speak their language. This short passage shows that Jesus is not just the ”King of the Jews”; He is the King of the world. We have a responsibility to make this message prominent; to make it plain and clear, so that ”Many” hear. In fact, here it says that ”Many of the Jews read…” This particular message was ”written.” There is not only a need for missionaries who will speak the word orally, but for writers who can communicate the Bible’s central message in written form. You think, for example, of the on-going impact of the books of C.S. Lewis. There is, however, nothing better than putting God’s Word into the hands of as many people as possible, so they can read it for themselves. As with Pilate, what He has ”written” He has ”written” (see 22). It is unalterable, and it is powerful. As Spurgeon said, you no more need to defend the Bible than you do a lion. Just let it out of its cage!
Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, picks up the idea of the notice above the cross (Colossians 2:14). He sees it as a record of our offences against the law of God. But Jesus takes these away. He nails all our ‘crimes’ to the cross, making forgiveness and freedom possible. Let this thought put a song in your heart today.
”Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant cancelled and nailed to Christ’s Cross.” The Message.
PRAYER: Lord, I know it is so important that the truth about Christ crucified should get out onto the streets. Help us to so speak, to so write in the language of the people, that your cross may be clearly seen in all its shining splendour.