Jesus does not look like a king to Pilate (John 18: 33-37). He lacks the customary signs of kingship: purple clothing, insignia; a ring, standard bearers and an army at his disposal. Pilate concludes that nothing Jesus has said warrants crucifixion. Instead, Pilate attempts to provide a way out for the Jewish leaders to reverse their decision so that they will not lose face. Pilate makes the offer to release one of his captives as was the custom preceding the Passover festival. The crowd however, demand the release of Barabbas, a terrorist. As a further concession to the Jews, and in a final attempt to prevent Jesus being crucified, Pilate has Jesus flogged and mocked as a pretend king (Jn 19:1-3). Following this punishment, Jesus is paraded before the crowd and Pilate declares that Jesus is innocent. But the crowd will not accept this. They demand his crucifixion on the basis that Jesus had claimed to the be the Son of God. This claim which Jesus did not deny (Lk 22:70), challenged Caesar’s counterclaim to be the son of God and therefore justified Jesus’ execution. So Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.
The background for Jesus’ claim to be the king of God’s kingdom rests on two theological ‘traditions’ or teachings. The first is better known: Jesus is a descendent of king David and the fulfilment of the promises made to David that an heir of his would sit on his throne for ever. The second tradition is less known and less understood. Jesus is the heavenly being which Daniel saw in his vision-dream (Daniel 7:9-14). This person is given authority, power and receives the worship of the heavenly court and its people. This indicates this ‘being’ is divine and equal to God. Daniel notes also that this person looks like a ‘son of man’, a Hebrew expression which means he is like a man.
It is this expression ‘the son of Man’, that Jesus uses the most throughout the Gospels to indicate how he understood himself and his mission. He is not just any old king, but a king not of this world or realm. He is the creator King who rules over all people and the creation. And he will be born at Christmas, in obscurity, fully human and fully devine.