Jesus: King of the Jews

By Dr. Ken Matto

Matthew 27:11 (KJV) And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.

For two millennia the normal teaching is that Jesus was the king of the Jews. This can be taken from Zechariah 9:9. Zechariah 9:9 (KJV) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. Of course, this verse deals strictly with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the week before Resurrection Day.

Matthew 21:4-5 (KJV) All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, {5} Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

So we see that in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament that Jesus is referred to as the king of the Jews. However, in these instances He is not specifically referred to as the King of the “Jews” just as their King. The term King of the Jews is used 17 times in the four Gospels and not to be found anywhere else in the New Testament.

John 19:21 (KJV) Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.

In John 19:21, we read that the Jews wanted the inscription over Jesus on the cross to be changed from “King of the Jews” to “he said, I am King of the Jews.” I have found nowhere in Scripture where Jesus ever claimed to be King of the Jews. He did, however, accept the title of “King of the Jews” from Pilate.

Luke 23:2-3 (KJV) And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. {3} And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.

Notice in Luke 23:2-3. In verse 2 the Jews were accusing Christ of claiming to be a king but if you will notice in verse 3, it is Pilate who then adds to their words and calls Jesus “King of the Jews.”

We read the same scenario in John 18:33-34 and ask Jesus if He was King of the Jews? Then Jesus responds to Pilate by asking him if he is asking on his own or did others tell you that about me?

John 18:33-34 (KJV) Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? {34} Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?

Then Pilate continues on questioning Jesus concerning why the chief priests have delivered Jesus to him.

John 18:35 (KJV) Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?

Now the next two verses are pivotal verses in understanding the term “King of the Jews.” The first verse is John 19:15. At the trial of Christ, Pilate was trying to get Jesus released because Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent and that He was delivered to him for envy and jealousy. Matthew 27:18 (KJV) For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. Then in John 19:15, Pilate asks a straightforward question, “Shall I crucify your King?” Then the response comes back to Pilate, “We have no king but Caesar.” This is very important because it now shows that Jesus was not king of the physical nation of Israel.

John 19:15 (KJV) But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

Then what seals the deal on this subject is the final verse which deals with the kingdom that Jesus is the King of. We find the answer to that in John 18:36:

John 18:36 (KJV) Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Here Jesus details the fact that His kingdom is not on this earth because if it was, then His servants would fight to free Him from two things: Rome who is about to crucify Him and notice what other information he reveals, “that I should not be delivered to the Jews.” If Jesus came as King of the physical Jews, then why would He use the term “delivered to the Jews?” This information is also applicable to the false teaching of a mythical thousand year reign that the kingdom of Jesus is not on this earth and will not be set up as such.

Now then, if Jesus is not king of the physical Jews here on earth and His kingdom is in Heaven, then what do we do with the 17 usages of the term “king of the Jews.” Remember when Jesus said to Peter, Get thee behind me Satan? Jesus was not calling Peter Satan because Satan has no chance of ever being saved but Peter was going to be saved. So Jesus looked beyond the earthly desire of Peter of not wanting Christ to go to the cross and spoke directly to the spiritual aspect of it, and that is, if Jesus did not go the cross, then salvation would be non-existent. Now in the Scriptures, using the same principle of interpretation, we look beyond the earthly meaning of “King of the Jews” and lo and behold, a beautiful understanding emerges.

Romans 2:28-29 (KJV) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: {29} But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Romans 9:6 (KJV) Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

Romans 11:26 (KJV) And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Galatians 3:29 (KJV) And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 6:16 (KJV) And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Philippians 3:3 (KJV) For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Revelation 3:12 (KJV) Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

Revelation 21:2 (KJV) And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

The terms “Jew, Israel, Circumcision, Abraham’s Seed” all took on new meanings after the cross:

1. Abraham’s seed is the Christian.
2. The true circumcision is the Christian.
3. A biblical Jew is a Christian
4. The Israel of God is the Church.
5. The "all Israel" that God has in view for salvation is not national Israel but it is the completion of the body of Christ at the last day.

Therefore we can safely conclude that Jesus is not the king of the physical Jews as the pre-tribbers conclude but Jesus is King of the Jews, that is, King of all the true believers who have become born again. Jesus reigns over the body of believers. Hebrews 3:6 (KJV) But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Notice that Hebrews 3:6 states that Christ is over His own house, which is the body of believers, where it reads “whose house we are,” which means He rules over the Christians worldwide. This is why He told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world because it would have been limited to one small nation, instead Christ is king over the body of believers on a worldwide scale. Today Christ rules the body of believers from the right hand of God the Father, thus making Him, “King of the Jews,” that is, spiritual Israel, the Israel of God that He purchased with His own blood.

Acts 20:28 (KJV) Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Hebrews 9:12 (KJV) Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Hebrews 13:12 (KJV) Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

Revelation 1:5 (KJV) And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

Therefore the conclusion is obvious. The physical Jews have no king but Caesar. The Christian has no king but Jesus! So Jesus is the King of the Jews, that is, those who are born again!