An epitaph isn’t something we think about often, but it is rather fitting, as many believers are observing Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection this week. There have been some interesting epitaphs written over the years:
Our family listened to a sermon in December last year on Jesus’ family tree, based on Matthew 1. Sure, it may not be the most exciting passage in Scripture, but it has a purpose. As we followed along, reading all the names, my husband pointed out the following verse:
“and Jesse fathered King David. David fathered Solomon by the wife of Uriah,”Matthew 1:6 ISV
We lost power shortly after we read that and continued talking as a family. I don’t remember ever noticing how Bathsheba was referenced here before. Scripture doesn’t mention her name, like it does Rahab, Ruth, and Mary; it just calls her, “the wife of Uriah.” Even though Uriah wasn’t technically part of Jesus’ kingly lineage, he was still an honorable mention for his faithful allegiance to King David.
This epitaph, of sorts, is a constant reminder of David’s sin with Uriah’s wife…there for everyone to read. Typically, our sin isn’t something we want to broadcast for everyone to see or know. Isn’t it fitting, though, whose name you see at the end of that genealogy (Matthew 1:16)? God provided the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus, the Messiah, to be the payment for sins and The Way to receive forgiveness. This is a reminder that all of us sin…and that because of Christ’s death for us (and resurrection), we can all be covered with His forgiveness! It’s because of His forgiveness that we can “come clean” with our sin, sharing our experiences, and the reality of the hope we have because of Jesus!
It hung on the cross, above Jesus’ head…a sign to all explaining why He was being punished this way…the “accusation,” as Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote in their accounts of the crucifixion. Another word for the Greek word Matthew, Mark, and Luke used, meaning “accusation,” is “crime.”
Exactly! John said, in his gospel, that Pilate had questioned Him and heard the case against Him, yet there wasn’t any fault found in Him (John 18:38, 19:4). So, Pilate wrote an inscription to be fastened to Christ’s cross:
This same saying was written in three different languages for those who passed by to be able to read…and they did. John 19:20 tells us that “many of the Jews read this sign, as where Jesus was crucified was near the city.” Black letters written on a white tablet, which is what this was said to be, according to the Greek word “epigraphé,” would be easily read. Jesus had claimed that He was the King of the Jews, when Pilate questioned Him (Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3, and John 18:37), so it makes sense why Pilate wrote this inscription, as this is what he knew was true from questioning Him.
John called the “inscription” a “title,” rather than a crime in his gospel. It’s interesting that a synonym for “inscription” is “epitaph…” Christ’s epitaph was not a crime, though they considered it so. It was one of His many titles. Do you know how “the one chosen” in ancient times was crowned king? A horn full of oil was poured on the top of one’s head for his anointing…to grant him the title/position as king. To be king is an appointment by God (Daniel 2:21). Guess who else was an anointed king (Hebrews 1:8-9)?
“Jacob fathered Joseph, the husband of Mary, who was the mother of Jesus, who is called the Messiah.”Matthew 1:16 ISV
Now, that’s an epitaph!
Growing up, around the table before Easter dinner, we’d talk about different aspects of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Maybe this season, you could ask your those you’re celebrating with to discuss:
1 “10 Famous Epitaphs: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird.” Merkle Monuments, 1 May 2018, https://www.merklemonuments.com/10-famous-epitaphs-the-good-the-bad-and-the-weird/.