2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, 3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. (Gospel of John chapter 19 KJV)
The weeks papers are full of pictures of Notre-Dame cathedral as it burns from a roof fire that began on Monday 15th April 2019. One iconic picture is of the inside of the cathedral, various statues and candles surround a cross that has been lit up by reflections of the flames that have engulfed the building. Many of us feared that the cathedral was doomed but thankfully it still stands minus a roof and steeple, thankfully nobody was killed, thankfully many of the icons inside were rescued.
Notre-Dame was home to many icons of the Christian faith including what is said to be the remains of the crown of thorns put upon the head of Jesus as he carried his cross to the hill of Golgotha. This was rescued by the Paris Fire Brigade Chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier. The Crown of Thorns was acquired in 1238 by King Louis IX who had given it to the cathedral for safe keeping.
In the New Testament the crown of thorns was put upon Jesus’s head by the Romans in mockery of when it was declared that he, Jesus, was ‘King of the Jews’, thus reclaiming his birth right as he was born into the line of David, the second man to become king of Israel. The Jewish Monarchy had ended many centuries before but there had been a prophecy that a new king would rise from the line of David.
Whether Jesus was a revolutionary figure out to undermine the Roman Rule and reclaim Jewish sovereignty or not is for another time. What I want to discuss here is the Crown of Thorns and its theological meanings.
32 That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die. 33 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? 34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? 35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. 37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. 38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. (Gospel of John chapter 18 KJV)
For Jesus to become the Christ he had a role to fulfil, which was to take on humanity’s sins;
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 KJV)
He bore it in the form of a crown of thorns that were placed upon his head. The crown of thorns represents that sin, and this ‘curse of sin’ Jesus Christ took upon himself. This ‘curse of the sin’ is the sin of everybody, and the Christ carries for everybody their sin so that everybody is free from the original sin, free to go forth and live their lives in the acknowledgement that they no longer carried the sin of the original man and woman, Adam And Eve.
So, Jesus Christ wears the crown of thorns and that releases us all from sin, we will no longer be judged by the Divine Creator, instead, Jesus Christ will take the judgement and punishment that was meant for each sin we commit, we are now free of any Divine sentence or penalty.
Why a crown of thorns? In Genesis chapter 3 it is explained how thorns and thistles came onto this earth, they grew because of the sinful act performed by Adam and Eve when they disobeyed the Divine Creator’s commands. The earth was full of luscious green plants and flowers as the nature of earth grew with the harmony of the planet, all life was new and pure, until Adam and Eve broke the rules and thus committed a sin.
That sin meant that things were no longer good in the eyes of the Divine Creator and thus the sin brought disharmony and chaos to everything that the Divine God had created, thorns and thistles now grew;
“Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field” (Genesis 3: 17-8)
And thus the thorns now represent sin, they are sharp and usually hidden, but they are also a reminder as we look upon the beauty of this planet, when we perhaps handle a rose bush growing in our garden and accidently scrape our finger on a sharp thorn, that sin is there, close by, waiting to tempt us away from the beauty of the Divine.