—by Greg Blair

On the 2nd June 1953 a young Princess Elizabeth walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey to be crowned Queen of England. She was watched by over 8251 attending guests, and 38 million in the UK on television and radio. There were 2000 journalists and 500 photographers from 92 nations who joined the throngs of onlookers lining the Coronation route. It was the most spectacular crowning of a royal ever witnessed. The beautiful crown, made of solid gold, was decorated with 2800 diamonds, two of them being 17 and 105 carats – all these given over the years by the wealth of men and nations. This was certainly a crown fit for a royal. The great opulence of the event with the adoring, ecstatic crowds and guests and paparazzi in tow in many senses set the standard fit for a royal.

More royal, less opulent
In stark contrast though is another Royal named Jesus of the house of King David. When entering Jerusalem He rode on a simple donkey with a small crowd, waving palm branches and throwing their dusty, perhaps even dirty, cloaks at his feet shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’ This Royal was treated very differently and the crown He received was one that spoke not to the wealth and opulence of this world, but to the nature of His coming.

Sentenced to death
To the many onlookers, what would take place in the next few days of Christ’s life would speak of a crown of shame not fit for a king, but in contrast, to God it would be a crown of victory. After Jesus’ arrest, He was taken through the process of a mock trial. Eventually He came before Pilate who pronounced Him not guilty – but, wanting to please the people, he gave in to their demands and Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion.

From thorns to victory
After beating Jesus, the soldiers mockingly threw a robe on Him, twisted a crown of thorns, and pushed it onto His head and put a staff in His right hand. Then with arrogance, mocking hearts, and mouths bowed before him the called out “Hail, king of the Jews.’ They had uttered the thoughts of the many onlookers – He is not a victorious King, but a worthless criminal. But unknown to them, the crown of thorns would become the crown of victory.

What does the crown of thorns mean to us today?
Was it just a random pick of the soldiers looking for something to make into a crown to mock this man, or is it much more? The royal crown of the British Empire speaks of authority and power of sovereignty, legitimacy, victory, and glory – but it’s all about man’s glory, which fades and withers away. The crown of thorns – symbolising indignity, shame, and suffering – was much more than a crown of thorns, this crown was a crown of victory that ushers in everlasting life for eternity, which cannot fade or wither away. 

The significance of the crown
This wasn’t a crown of plaited flowers, nor one of straw or grass, but one of thorns to bring pain and suffering. Christ’s body had suffered by the beatings, but now too His head. He suffered completely. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him (Isaiah 53:5). The hymn writer pens it so well “O sacred head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down, now scornfully surrounded with thorns thy only crown,” and that is true in the eyes of the world, but soon those thorns would pierce death, take away its sting, and take the victory from the grave.

A crown of thorns brings grief and shame

Grief and shame were the aim of the Roman soldiers, but the crown of thorns takes us back to Genesis 3:17-19, reminding us that it was due to sin that thorns were introduced into this world. The crown of thorns vividly symbolised the curse of sin being placed on Jesus’ head, but as Jesus went to the Cross, He took upon Himself the penalty for our sin, our grief and shame, and became the perfect sacrifice on our behalf.

The crown shouted victory
The thorns were His only crown, but His death and resurrection turned those thorns into a crown of victory for those who trust in His Name. Colossians 2:14-15 reminds us that the record of debt that is kept against us, Christ set it aside by nailing it to the Cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them. The sin that brought the thorns was defeated and the crown of thorns, instead of guilt and shame, shouts out aloud the victory of Christ for life eternal as Paul would allude to in 1 Corinthians 15:56, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”

The crown of thorns acts as a warning

The thorns that were chosen and woven together to form a crown seem to be a random thought and action. But all that God does is not random and has purpose and meaning to teach us His desires for us. Proverbs 22:5 reminds us that “In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them.”

Do we manipulate the crown?
The crown of thorns upon Christ’s head was placed there in an attitude of mockery and scorn. Isaiah would say He was “despised and we gave Him no praise.” Although we might not openly say we despise our Lord, do we not often place our own crown of thorns on His head when we despise His word, and distort it or neglect it? Do we not do that when we deny His claims and walk our own road and make ourselves lord of our life, or when we turn the truth of His word into a set of propositions and afterthoughts?

Stop suffering – Christ died for you!
Those thorns we place upon His head over and over again are the very things He took upon Himself so that we could have victory over sin. The ruling council of Jesus’ day did just that. The crown represented the bitter, twisted charges of this group and the thorns and snares that they threw down before the people as they used the Word of God to suite themselves. They became the thorns that pierced their souls as they brought untrue charges against our Lord. We need to heed the warning in Proverbs that we should guard our souls that our careless words, thoughtless actions, fanciful claims, and idolising of our selves do not become a road of thorns and snares to us. How many times have we placed a crown of thorns on our Saviour’s head?

We have the victory of the world
We fashion a crown made from our earthly values and place it on His head and it robs Him of His omnipotent excellence, majesty, and place as Lord over our life. The thorns pose a warning to all who call Him Lord. They tell us to guard our soul, to avoid the thorns and snares in the paths of life that distract and harm us for He has taken them upon Himself. He was afflicted by them so that we are not condemned by them, and in faith we have the victory that overcomes the world. This is the crown of victory.

The crown of thorns speaks of a victorious King

Lastly, we cannot look past the crown of thorns and ignore its immense meaning, because although it was placed there to bring scorn and shame, it also speaks to a day that is yet to come. Jesus willingly wore a crown of thorns for us. But this was just temporary. The Old Testament points us to a time when the Messiah would come on a donkey and the people would not be ready for Him.

Jesus is the victory
John 1:11 tells us that “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him.” They mocked and threw a crown of thorns on His head and called Him the King of the Jews. But He knew that one glorious day He would wear another crown – a crown of glory and victory. The hymn writer wrote “Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne.” This crown of thorns fashioned from the result of the curse of sin, now becomes a crown of victory.

Thorns are a foreshadowing
These thorns speak of a great anticipation and Revelation 19:11-16 speaks to that: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron sceptre. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh, he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.”

The crowns of the Bible
The crown of thorns is indeed a crown of victory and through them we are invited to come to Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords and receive His forgiveness. When we do, because of His crown of thorns, those who believe in Him will receive a crown that is imperishable, a crown of rejoicing, a crown of righteousness, the crown of glory, and the crown of life.

We are victorious!
That is what the crown of thorns is pointing us to. The verse from the Hymn O Sacred Head, Now Wounded by Hans Leo Hassler describes it so well; a crown of thorns replaced by a crown of victory.

“What thou my Lord has suffered was all for sinners gain
Mine, mine was the transgression, but yours the deadly pain;
Lo, here I fall my Saviour, tis I deserve your place;
Look on me with your favour, vouch-safe to me your grace.”

GREG BLAIR – Pastor at Somerset West Baptist Church. Visit swbc.co.za for more information.

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