INRI are letters frequently found on the top of crucifixes and they are straight out of the Bible.
It is narrated in the first three Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, that after Jesus is nailed to the cross, the soldiers “put over his head the written charge against him, which says,: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37).
However, the Gospel of John expands more on this particular part of the Passion story of Jesus, describing how the Jewish leaders protested against this sign. It is Pilate who ordered the sign and made sure that it is written in multiple languages for all to read.
Pilate also had an inscription written and placed on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.”
Many of the Jews read the inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and the inscription was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
But the chief priests of the Jews told Pilate, in (John 19:19-22), “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written”.
The inscription Pilate wrote is depicted on crucifixes with the abbreviation INRI.
This means in Latin translation of Pilate’s charge,
Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum,
which when translated means (Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews). The first letter is written as a “J” instead of an “I,” but the Latin is still the same.
As the Catholic Church was earlier located in the Roman Empire and Latin became the “official” language of the Roman Church, INRI was favored over the Greek or Hebrew words for the inscription.
The abbreviation calls to our mind us that Pilate’s charge, though meant to be mocking, is true. Because: truly, Jesus is our king, who came to save us from sin and death.
His throne became the cross and he rules over us in love and mercy. Jesus is the one true king and he calls all to follow behind.