My wife Lucy was asked to have the devotion for our senior adult luncheon in April. She spoke about the hats of Easter – referring to the disciple’s headgear, what the Sanhedrin might have worn, the High Priest Caiaphas head covering and that of Pilate. Then she spoke of Jesus’ crown.
How many of us have given much thought to, as Matthew refers to it, the “crown of thorns” (Matthew 27:29)? The Scriptures tell us that the soldiers took vines that were loaded with long, sharp and dangerous thorns; then they carefully wove together those razor-sharp, prickly, jagged vines until they formed a tightly woven, dangerous circle that resembled the shape of a crown. Afterward, the soldiers “.set it on his head..” The word Matthew uses implies they forcefully shoved this crown of thorns onto Jesus’ brow. These thorns would have been extremely painful and caused blood to flow profusely from His forehead. Because the thorns were so jagged, they would have created terrible wounds as they scraped across Jesus’ skull bone and literally tore the flesh from His skull.
As stated earlier, Matthew called it a “crown of thorns”. The word “crown” is from the Greek word that described a coveted victor’s crown. These soldiers intended to use this mock crown to make fun of Jesus. Little did they know that Jesus was preparing to win the greatest victory in history! Here was the “King of the Jews” being beaten, spit upon, and insulted by presumably low-level Roman soldiers. The crown of thorns was the finalizing of their mockery, taking a symbol of royalty and majesty, a crown, and turning it into something painful and degrading.
When Adam and Eve sinned, bringing evil and a curse upon the world, part of the curse upon humanity was “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you.” (Genesis 3:17-18). As well as thorns and thistles being a very real physical component to the cursed world that we all now live in, they carry further symbolic negative overtones throughout the Bible, firmly pointing back to the Curse in Genesis.
- In Numbers 33:55, God warned the Israelites that if they did not drive out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, allowing them to remain, the Canaanites would be an obstacle to them. They would be, “thorns in your sides”.
- Proverbs 15:19 again uses the imagery of thorns as obstacles, saying, “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.”
- In Isaiah 34:13, when God is speaking of the consequences of His judgment on the land of Edom, thorns feature as part of their punishment: “Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls.”
- The New Testament also uses thorns and thistles in reference to the inner workings of the worldly heart, corrupted by sin. In the parable of the sower, Matthew 13:3-8, some seeds “Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants” (v. 7).
The Roman soldiers unknowingly took an object of the curse and fashioned it into a crown for the one who would deliver us from that curse. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ?Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.'” (Galatians 3:13). Christ, in His perfect atoning sacrifice, has delivered us from the curse of sin, of which a thorn is a symbol.
While intended to be a mockery, the crown of thorns was, in fact, an excellent symbol of who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish. Jesus was, and is, indeed a king. One day, the entire universe will bow to Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11) as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). What the Roman soldiers meant as a mockery, was in fact a picture of Christ’s two roles, first of suffering servant (Isaiah 53), and second of conquering Messiah-King (Revelation 19).
Jesus was willing to endure the pain, the insults, and the shame, all on our account. The crown of thorns, and the suffering that went with it, are long gone, and Jesus has now received the crown of which He is worthy. “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)
The words of Hillsong’s “Man of Sorrows” are worthy of our notice:
Man of sorrows Lamb of God
By His own betrayed
The sin of man and wrath of God
Has been on Jesus laid
Silent as He stood accused
Beaten mocked and scorned
Bowing to the Father’s will
He took a crown of thorns
Oh that rugged cross
Where Your love poured out over me
Now my soul cries out
Praise and honour unto Thee