Luke: Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” They kept heaping many other insults on him.
John: And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.
What cruel irony! Jesus finally received the words he deserved: “Hail, King of the Jews!” For once he wore a crown upon his head. Yet it was not the golden crown of sovereignty or the olive crown of victory, but the thorny crown of suffering. Scholars have shown that the thorns from which Jesus’s crown was composed were long and terribly sharp. No doubt they dug deep into the head of the suffering king. We can’t really imagine the physical pain, not to mention the emotional and spiritual anguish endured by the King of kings. What incomprehensible irony! Jesus, the true king of Israel, endured the pain and mockery of the crown of thorns as part of his humiliation for us and our salvation.
What was the result of his torture, beyond the transient agony? Paul puts it this way in Philippians 2:5-11:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Did you catch that? Because Jesus humbled himself, because he endured the humiliation of the cross, including the crown of thorns, therefore God exalted him to the highest place. For Jesus, the path to glory as King of kings included the path of disgrace. Because he wore the crown of thorns, Jesus would receive the crown of universal worship.
One of my favorite hymns is “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” It is a celebration of the multi-faceted sovereignty of Christ. Curiously, however, even in its full, original nine verses, this fine hymn doesn’t mention Jesus’s crown of thorns, though it does refer to his death in several different ways, mentioning specifically his “pierced feet” and his wounded “hands and side.” I’d like to close today’s reflection by printing the most popular four verses of “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” along with a new verse that I’ve added (in italics).
Crown Him with Many Crowns
By: Matthew Bridges (1852) and Godfrey Thring (1874)
Crown him with many crowns, The Lamb upon his throne; Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns, All music but its own: Awake, my soul, and sing, Of him who died for thee, And hail him as thy matchless King Thro’ all eternity.
Crown Him the promised One, Messiah, Israel’s king, Who walked in servanthood along, The path of suffering. His honor struck in shame, His sacrifice adorns, His head bowed in humility, Enhanced with twisted thorns.
Crown him the Lord of life, Who triumphed o’er the grave, And rose victorious in the strife, For those he came to save; His glories now we sing Who died, and rose on high, Who died eternal life to bring, And lives that death may die.
Crown him the Lord of peace, Whose pow’r a scepter sways, From pole to pole, that wars may cease, And all be pray’r and praise: His reign shall know no end, And round his pierced feet, Fair flow’rs of paradise extend, Their fragrance ever sweet.
Crown him the Lord of love; Behold his hands and side, Those wounds, yet visible above, In beauty glorified: All hail, Redeemer, hail! For thou hast died for me: Thy praise and glory shall not fail, Thro’out eternity.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
As you consider the physical suffering of Jesus, what is evoked in you?
How does the physical suffering of our Lord help us to connect with his spiritual suffering?
In what ways might you imitate the humility of Jesus in your life?
Gracious Lord Jesus, how hard it is to read of the abuse you suffered even prior to your crucifixion. I can’t even begin to imagine what you felt, not only physically, but especially in your soul. What can I say in response but “Thank you” for walking the path of suffering and shame for my sake. You took the abuse that I deserved and gave me your glory in return. Help me, dear Lord, to honor you as my King in all that I do. May my words and deeds reflect your sovereignty and celebrate your glory. Amen.