To the crowd present at the crucifixion of Jesus, our Savior certainly did not look like any king they had heard of. Sure, there was a placard reading “King of the Jews” affixed to the cross on which Jesus hung (John 19:19–22), but this was not a true proclamation of His royalty. Instead, it was the public announcement of the charge for which the Romans had Jesus crucified—sedition—for this was how Roman officials typically expressed to onlookers the reason for a person’s crucifixion. Moreover, the bloodied and bruised body of Jesus, like that of other crucified men, would have been seen as evidence of our Lord’s defeat, not proof that He was a conquering King.
And yet, anyone who truly understood what was going on would have seen Jesus’ suffering as the demonstration of His destroying all His and our enemies. The Apostle Paul explains that at the cross, Jesus triumphed over rulers and authorities (Col. 2:15), and he says this because the crucifixion was not the end of the story. Both earthly rulers—the Romans and the Jewish authorities—and spiritual authorities—Satan and His demons—threw everything they had at Jesus and, in fact, succeeded in killing Him. But while they might have won a “victory” of sorts, they ended up losing the war, as Jesus overcame death, rising again on the third day (John 20:1–10). Jesus conquered sin and death. Bearing and exhausting the penalty of sin, Jesus made it so that death could have no more dominion over Him (Rom. 6:9–10). He perfectly endured the wrath of God such that the debt of sin He bore was paid in full, and death has no rights over those who have fully paid sin’s debt. United to Christ by faith alone, we are reckoned as having our debt of sin paid, so death cannot have final dominion over believers either.
Additionally, Jesus’ kingship is evident to those who pay close attention to the events described in today’s passage. When the Romans crucified someone, the soldiers carrying out the execution typically had rights to his clothing. In the case of Jesus, the soldiers cast lots to determine how to divide our Lord’s garments (John 19:23). John tells us that this act fulfilled prophecy, specifically Psalm 22:18 (John 19:24). Psalm 22 was written by David, the greatest king of old covenant Israel. It was composed and first sung by the anointed ruler. That the words of Psalm 22 were true of Jesus as well—truer in even greater measure than they were of David—indicates that Christ, indeed, is King.
Jesus’ loss of clothing was part of His work as the Suffering Servant-King to defeat sin and present us righteous before God. John Calvin writes, “Christ was stripped of his garments, that he might clothe us with righteousness . . . his naked body was exposed to the insults of men, that we may appear in glory before the judgment-seat of God.” We bow to Christ’s rule and enjoy its benefits by repenting of sin and trusting Him alone for salvation.