What is the significance of the crown of thorns?
In Matthew 27:28-29 we read, "And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!'" What was the importance of this crown of thorns?
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This same account is also found in Mark 15:17-18 where we find: "And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, 'Hail, King of the Jews!'" John 19:2-3 adds, "And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' and struck him with their hands."
The immediate context reveals that the crown of thorns was used to mock Jesus. They used both a robe and this crown to present Him as a king, and then mistreated Him before putting Him to death on the cross. Even on the cross, a sign hung over His head stating Jesus as "King of the Jews."
In addition, the crown of thorns rightly revealed that Jesus is the Messiah King who suffered in our place. He is "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16). Jesus also suffered on our behalf, in part due to this crown of thorns. This was a direct fulfillment of biblical prophecy, including Isaiah 53:5 that notes, "But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed."
Hebrews 2:9 offers another aspect of importance regarding the crown of thorns: "But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." The One who was crowned with thorns suffered on our behalf and has been crowned with glory.
Part of the curse in Genesis 3 is that the ground would produce thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18). Hebrews 6:7-8 also reveals that thorns were viewed negatively in ancient culture and were considered a curse: "For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned." The idea that Jesus was crowned with thorns highlighted that His suffering and death were a curse. Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree—'"
When Jesus was crowned with a crown of thorns, His torturers unknowingly punished Him with a symbol fitting of the suffering Messiah. Though He suffered and died for the sins of people, He rose again, gloriously revealing Himself as the true King and Savior of the world.
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