Posted by Carol Smith
For someone who doesn’t like sad stories, this part of the week before Easter can be hard to get into. This is the part of the week when we’re supposed to read about and think about Jesus’ death. His close friend, John, wrote about it in his book in chapters 18-19. These chapters read as a tragedy. As John has told his story, we have come to love this man, and now he is betrayed, arrested, abandoned, mocked, beaten, and sentenced to a torturous death. We seem to be seeing the downward movement of this man that had risen to fame and popularity on the hopes of the people. It’s hard for me to read.
But into this tragedy is woven a theme that counters that downward movement. The coronation of a king is subtly narrated in this tragedy. This theme, hidden below the surface, reveals that what appears to the eye to be defeat, is actually Jesus’ rise to kingship.
During the part of the story where Jesus is before Pilate, I count 19 references to Jesus as king. John wants us to see this. (Take a look for yourself: John 18:33-19:22) Many of those references are mocking. And the real tragedy here is not Jesus’ tragedy, but the tragedy of the people who have the True King standing in their midst and don’t recognize him. As John tells how the people try to put Jesus down, he weaves in this theme so his readers will see a glimpse of what’s actually happening: the rise of the True King.
The focal point of the development of the theme is in John 19: 1-3.
Pilate then took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and put a purple robe on him; and they began to come up to him and say, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and to give him slaps in the face.
This is the lowest point for Jesus, it seems. The scourging, the mocking, the slapping. But at that lowest point, he receives a crown, a royal robe, and a declaration of kingship, the symbols of a coronation. John wants us to know there is something more going on here than meets the eye. Even in what seems like the darkest hour, God is working his great plan. He’s about to turn what seems like a defeat in death into the greatest victory ever won. Through his death, Jesus is going to overcome death, bring life, and begin his reign as King.
This God we serve is the author of the most masterful and unexpected plot twist in history. If God can transform this defeat into victory, this darkness into glory, then there is nothing in our lives that is beyond his ability to transform. No matter how powerful the defeat or darkness in your life may seem, God is so much more powerful. This God specializes in taking what appears hopeless and turning it into glory we could never have imagined.
Discussion/Application: First, read John’s account of Jesus before Pilate in John 18:33-19:22, highlight all words related to king, and then step back and look at it. Does it transform the way you see that scene? Then, let’s ask ourselves: how many other times might I have seen only tragedy and despair, while God was working a glorious plan just under the surface? What defeat or darkness in my life needs God’s transforming power right now?
Bullet prayer for the day: Jesus, open my eyes to see you, the true King, and to crown you the King of my life. Take the darkness and defeat in my life and transform it with your victorious life.