When you think of Easter, what words come into your head? Chocolate? Bunnies? Jesus? A cross? An empty tomb?
When I think of Easter, more often than not, I think of thorns. Not a nicely pruned rose bush, but a twisted crown of barb-wire-y thorns.
The reason? Well, in Matthew’s gospel, as Jesus is led away from his trial, he is mocked and beaten by a company of soldiers who give him a crown of thorns…
‘They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him’
It’s a scene of torture in the New Testament. It’s not nice, but it’s real. And these two verses give us an indication of exactly who Jesus was, what he was about to do, and why he was going to do it.
The thorns show us who king Jesus was and is: a king of love and perseverance who would give all and suffer all.
The thorns, the staff and the robes that Jesus gets dressed in are the ultimate insult. The soldiers are ridiculing and deriding him. They are screaming: ‘You’re no king. Think you’re special, just look at yourself now’. The soldiers are trying to ruin Jesus, to break him and shame him.
But the thing that makes this dehumanising setting even worse is that we know Jesus is the true king. He’s honoured in heaven. He’s God become man, the creator of all being shamed, spat on, kicked and beaten by people he could crush in an instant. He’s not just innocent, but he’s the ultimate example of perfect humanity being tortured and crushed. It’s devastating.
It’s a deeply ironic scene. Jesus is due the honour that the soldiers are taunting him with. The thorns show us who king Jesus was and is: a king of love and perseverance who would give all and suffer all.
But the crown of thorns are also an indication of what Jesus was about to do. They allude to the meaning of his death on the cross. Other passages in the Bible mention thorns, and that gives us an idea of the significance attached to them.
Thorns are in Genesis, a result of the curse of sin. When Adam and Eve fall, they are told that the earth will be hard to tend and thorns and weeds will fill the ground (Gen 3v17-18). Proverbs says that thorns lie in the path of the wicked (Prov 22v5) and Jesus says that thornbushes don’t produce good fruit, alluding to the words of false prophets (Matt 7v16).
Thorns are used as a picture of what happens when we do wrong and stumble away from God. In these senses thorns are a result of sin, a sign of sin; they are the fruit of sin.
So, why is Jesus wearing a crown of thorns? He is holding and bearing the result of our sin. The crown of thorns on his head are a symbol of our shame, guilt, depression, cynicism and much more. He’s taking the result of all our sin and mess on himself. The perfect one is taking all our imperfections and within hours he’d be dying to forever free us from all the separation from God that sin causes.
Of course Easter doesn’t end with a crown of thorns. Easter ends with an empty grave and with a risen king who gets the honour he deserves. But the thorns show us a bit more of the God who suffers because he loves us – the God who would give it all to have us with Him.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.