Crown of Thorns

" Of all the features of the scene the one that has most impressed the imagination of Christendom is the crown of thorns. It was something unusual, and brought out the ingenuity and wantonness of cruelty. Besides, as the wound of a thorn has been felt by everyone, it brings the pain of the Sufferer nearer to us than any other incident. But it is chiefly by its symbolism that it has laid hold of the Christian mind. When Adam and Eve were driven from the garden into the bleak and toilsome world, their doom was that the ground should bring forth to them thorns and thistles. Thorns were the sign of the curse; that is, of their banishment from God's presence and of all the sad and painful consequences following therefrom. And does not the thorn, staring from the naked bough of winter in threatening ugliness, lurking beneath the leaves or flowers of summer to wound the approaching hand, tearing the clothes or the flesh of the traveller who tries to make his way through the thicket, burning in the flesh where it has sunk, fitly stand for that side of life which we associate with sin--the side of care, fret, pain, disappointment, disease and death? In a word, it symbolises the curse. But it was the mission of Christ to bear the curse; and, as He lifted it on His own head, He took it off the world. He bore our sins and carried our sorrows.

Why is it that, when we think of the crown of thorns now, it is not only with horror and pity, but with an exultation which cannot be repressed? Because, cruel as was the soldiers' jest, there was a divine fitness in their act; and wisdom was, even through their sin, fulfilling her own intention. There are some persons with faces so handsome that the meanest dress, which would excite laughter or disgust if worn by others, looks well on them, and the merest shreds of ornament, stuck on them anyhow, are more attractive than the most elaborate toilets of persons less favoured by nature. And so about Christ there was something which converted into ornaments even the things flung at Him as insults. When they called Him the Friend of publicans and sinners, though they did it in derision, they were giving Him a title for which a hundred generations have loved Him; and so, when they put on His head the crown of thorns, they were unconsciously bestowing the noblest wreath that man could weave Him. Down through the ages Jesus passes, still wearing the crown of thorns; and His followers and lovers desire for Him no other diadem."

James Stalker, The Trial and Death of Jesus Christ


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