The Creator Crowned with Thorns
“And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head and arrayed Him in a purple robe.”
– John 19:2
A Weight of Glory
If God the Son were to have incarnated as an emperor who ruled the entire planet, this would already have been an infinite condescension on His part. But that is not how He comes, that is not the life He leads. Instead, He is born in lowliness, lives a commoner’s life, and faces this sort of blasphemy at His death. What Jesus endures here is absolutely incomprehensible……GOD……GOD…..the infinite, transcendent, all holy GOD has become flesh and blood. The one who spread out the heavens like a tent and unfurls the dimensions like a scrolls has bound Himself to a human frame. Why? So that Hebrews 2:14 tells us:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death…”
God was veiled in flesh so that it might be pierced, His life was bound to blood so that it might be poured out. God makes Himself a refuge against every terror that could befall the human soul by bearing every terror in Himself. We find shelter in this Rock only because it has been split for us (Ex.33:21-22).
Should we not daily stagger from the weight of this glory? We live on the planet where this has happened. We live on a blue speck suspended in an arm of an obscure galaxy – one among billions – and on this planet, on this mote of dust, on this atom in the universe of God’s creation, GOD comes and is slaughtered for His people. GOD receives a crown of thorns on His own brow, He bears the mocking, the beating, the scorn….and then, He bears the punishment of Wrath’s hell in our place. Oh, we live on a planet of wonders in a universe of wonders sustained by a God of wonders….and the greatest of these is the cross!
Love at the Roots
And why does this all happen? What are the roots of Calvary’s Tree? The answer is – wonderfully, but not surprisingly – Love. The Father loves the Son and so has given Him the glory of being the Savior of mankind and the Exegesis of the Invisible God to creation, the Son loves the Father and so obeys, and the Father and Son love the Church and so contrive to fold her into their own Trinitarian fellowship. And what of the Spirit? He is the love, the bond, the person who flows between Father and Son and in/through whom the entire work is performed (Heb.9:14). Love’s greatest work and the zenith of its manifestation is the agony of Golgotha….that in and of itself is a beautiful mystery that will take ages to explore.
The Curse on His Brow
And finally, we come to the point for which this post is named: The Crown of Thorns. The symbolism here cannot be missed: God bears our curse on His brow.
One of the glorious things about scripture is that it gives us a “vocabulary” of interconnected symbols and spiritual realities with which to “read” the world of nature. For example, in Genesis 3:18, thorns are specifically mentioned as a result of the Curse. This invites us to interpret thorns as a symbol of sin and its effects. And God, in His wisdom, has made it relatively easy to do this….thorns are sharp, they hurt, and they often make it hard to do the things we’d like to do (climb trees, eat berries, pick flowers). All of this is intentional, God did not see the thorn and say, “My curse against sin is like that,” rather, He designed the thorn so that we would know what sin and the curse are like. When we allow the Bible and its symbolic imagery to inform our understanding of the world around us, not only does creation become a vibrant “pop-up book” of divine communication, but scripture itself becomes more rich and interconnected.
The text above is a prime example of this. When we read “thorns,” we should think “Sin and its effects,” and here we see the “purpose” of the thorn. Why do curse-born thorns exist? So that they can pierce the skin of the incarnate God and draw redeeming blood from His veins. It is a stunningly beautiful image of Christ’s substitutionary work when the soldiers place these thorns on His head…..This is our God….this is how He would have us know Him. He is the one who carries the sins of His people (and the piercing results of those sins) on His own brow. When Christ wore the crown of thorns, He wore it for all of His people…..all the thorns of our sinful hearts, all the wounds that they have and will cause, God carried these as His crown.
The Curse Turned to Glory
And it is a crown. That too is glorious. The beauty here is not simply that the thorns of the curse pierce the Redeemer, it is that He wears them as his crown. There are two glorious things here.
First, The glory of God the Son is that He bears our sins in His death (Heb.2:9, Rev.5:9). A crown is the glory of the king, and Christ’s crown in His first coming is made of thorns. Why? Because His glory is to be the curse-absorbing God, the sin-removing God, the Lamb of God who bears the sins of many and lays down His life for the world. The GLORY of God the Son is that He is crucified in love, to show us God and bring us to God.
Secondly, the image of thorns weaved into a crown (unbeknownst to the soldiers and to Satan himself) is a stunning declaration of what God is doing at the cross. Jesus’ death and resurrection will take the thorns of our sin and weave them into the crown of His glory, it will cause the rebellion of humanity to reveal the majesty of God, it will take the greatest sin in history and turn it to the climactic communication of God’s fullness to His creatures…..At the cross the world sees thorns, but those with regenerate eyes see a crown.
And so, the words that J.R.R Tolkien (thinking as a sovereignty-affirming Christian) puts into the mouth of Middle-Earth’s Creator are proven beautifully true:
“‘And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.'”
Glory to our God! Our God who takes the thorns of sin and failure and rebellion and weaves them into a crown of glory and redemption and steadfast love.