“Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”” (John 19:20–22, ESV)
The chief priests along with other opponents of Christ (scribes, Pharisees) rejected Christ again and again during his ministry in Judea despite the miracles he performed, despite the message that he preached, despite the embarrassing fact of Lazarus running around over in Bethany for all to see. When they came to the cross, they rejected him again.
Notice how subtly John implies that the chief priests were under the authority of Jesus along with everyone else. Pilate’s inscription, writes John, read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Then look what John does only a sentence later: “So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate.” This is no mistake on the part of John, the chief priests of the Jews by all rights should be subjects of the King of the Jews, but they rejected him…again.
Caiaphas had pointed out that it was expedient for one person to die for their country, and Pilate had declared that Jesus was the King of the Jews. Don Carson points out the irony: “Thus the two men most actively and immediately responsible for Jesus’ death, Caiaphas (11:49–52) and Pilate, are unwittingly furthering God’s redemptive purposes, unwittingly serving as prophets of the King they execute.”
They both rejected him. They both served as prophets for the King. They were both under his authority. Who could work something like that out but God alone?