John 19:19 Pilate also had a sign written and put on the cross. It said: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
John 19:20 Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.
John 19:21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.'”
John 19:22 Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written.”
Jameson, Fawsett and Brown show the significance of this nameplate:
“it was written in Hebrew – or Syro-Chaldaic, the language of the country and Greek – the current language and Latin–the official language. These were the chief languages of the earth, and this secured that all spectators should be able to read it. Stung by this, the Jewish ecclesiastics entreat that it may be so altered as to express, not His real dignity, but His false claim to it. But Pilate thought he had yielded quite enough to them; and having intended expressly to spite and insult them by this title, for having got him to act against his own sense of justice, he peremptorily refused them. And thus, amidst the conflicting passions of men, was proclaimed, in the chief tongues of mankind, from the Cross itself and in circumstances which threw upon it a lurid yet grand light, the truth which drew the Magi to His manger, and will yet be owned by all the world!”1
The famous paintings with “INRI” as a shorthand for the Latin do not really convey the embarrassment the Jews must have felt by reading this sign. But one day this king will return, and many more will be ashamed that they did not submit to his rule. This king who died in shame rose in victory. He is coming again as king of the universe.
1Jamieson, Robert; A.R. Fausset; and David Brown. “Commentary on John 19.” . Blue Letter Bible. 19 Feb, 2000. 2018. 17 Nov 2018.