Crown of thorns
What does it mean for Jesus to be Redeemer?
What does it mean that He is Saviour of the world?
You see many people have a gospel that depicts the Son of God swooping down to snatch a lucky few from damnation. Souls are saved and saved out of the world into another realm. The world itself can sink into hell – the chosen ones have a life-raft. And they can’t wait to escape.
But then Jesus comes into the world and anchors Himself to this reality. He earths Himself into our flesh. He takes our humanity to Himself forevermore. More than this, He takes our sufferings to Himself – bearing our sorrows and carrying our griefs (Isaiah 53:4). More than this, He takes our sins to Himself – the iniquity of us all laid on Him at the cross (Isaiah 53:7). And even more than this, He takes our curse upon Himself – lifted up on a tree to bear the reproach we all deserve (Galatians 3:13).
Jesus does not ignore suffering, sin and curse. And He doesn’t merely blast it to oblivion with some glory-gun. He takes it to Himself. He owns it and then puts it to death in His own body. The Head of creation dives into this pit of our own making to take on the darkness in person. And there’s no better symbol for this than a crown of thorns.
27 The soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. 28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. 29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! (Matthew 27:27-29)
Thorns are the very emblem of the curse. As soon as Adam sinned the LORD told him:
Thorns also and thistles shall [the ground] bring forth to thee. (Genesis 3:18)
These thorns are the polar opposite of the fruitfulness for which the earth is intended. And they are the opposite of the fruitfulness God’s people are meant for. While Israel is supposed to be a fruitful vine, briers and thorns come up instead (Isaiah 5). Jesus uses the same imagery in His own teaching. When speaking about the false prophets of His day, He asks “Do men gather grapes of thorns?” That is, will you find the life of God in a fraudulent people?
And what does Jesus do? He dives headlong into the thornbush – He enters into the fruitless, lifeless, painful curse of this world. Through it there is twisted a crown of thorns, and He wears it with pride.
Christ’s reign does not ignore the thorns, it includes them and takes them up into His redemptive purposes. He turns curses into crowns, and a tree intended for death into the very tree of life. Here is a cosmic redemption.
What regrets do you nurse? What sins do you still lament? How many “what ifs” do you wonder about? Have you suffered from foolish, sinful or unfortunate twists of fate? Do you consider that now your life is condemned to God’s second, third, fourth or 57th-best? Look again to Christ. He turns curses into crowns. And that’s not just an example of redemption. The cross is the very engine of redemption. And there is no part of this world that it will not touch.
Whatever thorns you experience, Christ is taking them and twisting them further. He is not discarding them. He’s not actually straightening them! He’s twisting them into a crown. He’s pushing on through the curse, through the cross to resurrection blessings. But in these blessings, the curses are not forgotten, they are included. They are glorified. Curses become crowns.
There is no pain, no weakness, no fruitlessness, no sin that Jesus does not take up into His purposes and turn to greater glory. We’re not sure how He will do it. But when we look at the cross we cannot doubt that He will do it. He is the One who turns deicide into cosmic glory and blessing. He really is the Redeemer of the world. No matter how painful the thorns might be, we can trust the One who makes them His crown.