God’s Word for You
Luke 23:38 THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, June 20, 2019
38 There was a superscription above him which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
This epigraph (Greek ἐπιγραϕὴ) or superscription is a little different in each of the four Gospels.
“This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37).
“The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).
John remembered it as:
“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:13).
Apart from “This is…,” the recollections of Matthew and John are so similar as to be identical, and this was probably the version written in Aramaic. John tells us that it was also written in Latin and Greek, and it’s safe to assume that Mark’s version is likely to have been the Latin one, or simply a shorter version of all the others. Perhaps Luke’s version is what was written in Greek; they are all virtually the same.
Normally such an epigraph would show the crime that was being punished. Since Pilate had already proclaimed Jesus to be innocent of every crime for which he had been accused, he uses the original charge brought against Jesus, that he was the King of the Jews (Luke 23:2-3). This brings us to consider the kingly office of Jesus Christ, even now at the very height of his work as high priest.
As the mediator between God and man, Christ holds a threefold office: prophet, priest, and king. There have been some theologians who resist calling Christ a king altogether. In a dissertation in Leipzig (1769), Johann Ernesti called for the use of the three offices to be abolished because “they only impeded the (theological) treatment of the office of mediator” (Hoenecke III p. 164). But the offices are all treated and named in Scripture. As king, Christ the God-man, according to both his natures, rules everything in heaven and on earth. His kingdom is one kingdom, but it is diverse as an object. He rules over the kingdom of power, the kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of glory.
The kingdom of power is attested to in Psalm 8:6, “You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet.” See also Daniel 7:14 and Matthew 28:18. As God and man, Christ rules over all the works of God, both rational man and angels and irrational animals, plants, and the rest of creation. He does this toward the final goal, which is the glory of God, and with an intermediate goal of the welfare or good of everything he rules.
The kingdom of grace is the rule of Christ over the church and over all of humanity as far as it benefits or otherwise affects the church on earth. “On this rock (Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ) “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). The true activities of the king for his church are these (based on Quenstedt):
1, Sending preachers (apostles, evangelists, and teachers, Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 4:11).
2, Gathering the church through the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments (Acts 20:28).
3, Conversion, Regeneration, and Justification (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3).
4, Renewal and Sanctification (Titus 3:5).
5, Pouring out various gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-5; Ephesians 4:8).
6, Protection and preservation of the godly (Matthew 28:20).
7, Ruling in the midst of his enemies (Psalm 110:2; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13).
After Christ’s return, the kingdom of grace will pass over into the kingdom of glory. After this the means of grace (the gospel in word and sacrament) will no longer be the special or particular means of his rule, and so the manner of that rule will change. Therefore Paul says, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). After this, all the people in heaven “will see him with the Father and the Holy Spirit without end face to face, and he will fill them and crown them with all happiness forever, in the glory of his divine name, the confusion of the condemned, and the eternal diversion of the blessed” (Quendstedt, p. 272).
The citizens of the kingdom of glory are the blessed angels (2 Thessalonians 1:7) and all who have put their faith in Christ (Hebrews 12:22-24). There are no other residents of that kingdom, since Jesus testified: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). But give thanks to God that through faith, you are part of his kingdom. It was he, your king, who suffered and died to make you his own. It is he, your king, who will raise you from the dead, to live with him forever in glory.
This is Jesus, our king.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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