Matthew 27:36 indicates that the soldiers sat down and kept watch over Jesus. Once a victim was nailed to a cross, there was still a need to watch until death slowly took him, primarily to prevent any possible rescue attempts from being successful.
"Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: 'JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS'" (John 19:19; cf. 1:49). Unconsciously, Pilate told the truth in this superscription, even though Jesus was not "King of the Jews" in an earthly or political sense.
"Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin" (John 19:20). Hebrew was the national dialect, Latin the official, and Greek the common. The usage of all three languages would ensure that anyone, regardless of their native tongue, would be able to read the message. Many people read the title as they passed into and out of Jerusalem.
"Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'He said, "I am the King of the Jews"'" (John 19:21). Predictably, the Jews took offense with the content of Pilate's public message. They wanted Jesus to be viewed as a political threat to Rome (so He would be put to death), yet they don't want to acknowledge Him as their King!
"What I have written, I have written" (John 19:22). Pilate had put up with enough grief from these Jews. The message he wrote on the cross was likely motivated by a desire for personal vindication as well as retaliation against the Jews (who would interpret the title as an insult). He was in no mood to appease them further. Though he had been a coward in the great matter, he asserts himself in the small; he would not change the message on Jesus' cross.
We will continue studying this narrative in our next lesson.