Summary: The whole point of the book of Matthew is to present Jesus as King.
When anyone was to be crucified, under Roman law, they were marched through as many streets as possible on the way to the place of execution in order that the people might see the victim. In front of the victim there was a man who carried a placard. On the placard was written the crime for which the individual was to be crucified. However, in the case of Jesus there was no crime because He had committed no crime. Pilate had repeatedly made the statement, "...I find no fault in Him." Since there was no crime for Pilate to put on the placard, he uses this opportunity to throw a cynical, sarcastic, bitter barb at the Jews by placing a superscription on the cross that read; “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Lk. 23:38.
Pilate, in obvious and insidious cynicism, put up on the title, "JESUS, OF NAZARETH...," knowing that the Jews had a saying, "...Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?..." (Jn. 1:46).
Pilate hung a beaten, bloody, body on a cross, and then announced to the world that this man was "THE KING OF THE JEWS." If He was their king, then what did that make them? So, for a king he gave them a crucified criminal. He knew that they had said, "...We have no king but Caesar" (Jn. 19:15).
The hill of Calvary was just above a highway and just outside the city wall. It could easily be seen from the edge of the city, and it certainly could be seen by all the people on the paths and walkways outside the city. High and lifted into the sky was the cross, and on the top the superscription: "JESUS, OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS." Every Jew that went by saw it. "...for the place where Jesus was crucified was near to the city, and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin." Everyone could read it. So, in the three languages of the ancient world--Hebrew, the language of religion; Greek, the language of culture; and Latin, the language of power-- Pilate wrote, "...THE KING OF THE JEWS."
So Pilate, witless in his cynicism, announces to the world for all time the absolute truth that Jesus is "THE KING OF THE JEWS." The Jews had in fact killed their King.
The whole point of the book of Matthew is to present Jesus as King. Before He was ever born, the angel announced to Mary that He would have a Kingdom (Lk. 1:33). The Wise Men came from the East heralding Him as King of the Jews (Mt. 2:2). At the beginning of His last week alive, Jesus came riding into the city of Jerusalem and the people said, "...Blessed is the King of Israel..." (Jn. 12:13). "Pilate, therefore, said unto Him, Art Thou a king, then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world..." (Jn. 18:37). He was a King; He was the true King. He was born of the seed of David--He was the King. So Pilate, in cynicism, announced the truth to the world.
Previous to the execution at Calvary, Caiaphas, a man with a dement mind but with a divine edict on his lips (howbeit unknown to him). This man, though a high priest, was a scheming politician. In John 11, he came up with the idea to get rid of Jesus. The leaders were afraid that Jesus was going to stir up the people. In verse 48, they reasoned, "If we let Him thus alone, all men will believe on Him; and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation." They were afraid to lose their political positions. So, Caiaphas says to them, "...consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not" (v. 50). Verse 51 says, "And this spoke he not of himself; but, being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation." Caiaphas was high priest, so God just spoke a prophecy through his mouth. Caiaphas didn’t even know what he was saying. He thought he had a great plot to kill Jesus in order to stop a Roman persecution, but in effect he was predicting the death of Jesus Christ on behalf of the nation.
"Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate..." They were no longer the chief priests of God. They had forfeited that title. They now had a new title--the chief priests of the Jews. There was One soon to become “The Great High Priest!”
"...Write not, The King of the Jews, but, He said, I am King of the Jews." That change makes a difference. One says He is King of the Jews, the other says He is an impostor--just faking or making a ridiculous claim. They had screamed, "...We will not have this man to reign over us" (Lk. 19:14). They wanted Pilate to change the wording so that Christ would appear to be nothing more than an impostor. "Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written."