You may have seen these letters in a church somewhere, INRI. If you look at the crucifix hanging above the literature table in our fellowship hall or the one hanging in the entry way to the sanctuary, you will see this printed above the head of Jesus. INRI is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase, Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum, or in English, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Recall that when Jesus was crucified, Pilate had this inscription placed on Jesus' cross written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin so all could read it. (John 19:19-20).
Why would Pilate write such a thing? The Gospels of Matthew and Mark tell us that this was the charge against Jesus (Matt. 27:37). The Romans would sometimes indicate the criminal charge against the person being crucified by writing it on the cross. This was the best that Pilate could come up with. He asked the Jews if he should crucify their king. They replied, "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15). The Jewish authorities didn't like the placard. They told 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 19:21-22).
There are various ways to think about these words. On the one hand, the inscription rings true. Jesus was the king, the Messiah, that the Jews were promised in the Old Testament. Yet, most didn't recognize Him. On the other hand the statement doesn't go far enough. Jesus was also Pilate's true king. He is The King of all humanity, though the world does not recognize His authority. As God's children, we recognize the Jesus as The King and give thanks that we are citizens of His kingdom. As Paul writes, "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Col. 1:13). Praise God that in Jesus we have a merciful and powerful king!