‘..ruined sinners to reclaim! / Hallelujah! What a Saviour!’
This incident is full of irony. The trumped-up charge of claimed kingship was designed by the Jewish leaders to ensure that Pilate would sentence Jesus to death as a revolutionary. Pilate mocks them with it, and will go further with the title on the cross. Mark wants his readers to know that Jesus is in truth King. There is further irony in the demand that the innocent be killed while the guilty go free–which only servers to underline the message of the cross.
Pilate sees the dilemma. He has no illusions about Jesus’ innocence, but his position is difficult; he cannot afford trouble at Passover, with the city heaving and tension running high. He is a pragmatist. The hostility of the Jewish leaders and Pilate’s weakness and instinct for self-preservation thus combine to ensure Jesus’ death. This is not the whole story, however. The Greek word translated ‘handed over’ occurs twenty times in Mark, of which ten are in the passion narrative. Of the rest, two occur in Mark 14:18-21 with Jesus’ statement about his death sandwiched between them. Another human element and a divine element; all is part of God’s plan. The leaders believed that they were, but in a way they could not see. It is deeply mysterious, but here in the weakness of this King is the source of our salvation.
The final irony is that we can claim to have Jesus as our King but can be as guilty as the leaders in rejecting his rule in practice. Whenever we choose our way over his or compromise with the values if this age, we crucify him ‘all over again’ and bring disgrace on him.
Ascription of kingship are cheap, but discipleship is costly. What will it mean for you to recognize Jesus as your King this week?