Crown of Thorns

Bible Reference: Mark 15.15-20.

After Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested by Jewish leaders, he was taken to Pilate, the Roman ruler of Palestine. The Jewish leaders demanded that Pilate crucify Jesus. Pilate was reluctant to order Jesus’s death because he could find no crime that Jesus committed. To placate the Jews, Pilate had Jesus flogged. Pilate thought that flogging Jesus would be sufficient punishment to satisfy the Jews; however, it made no difference to Jewish leaders. They continued to incite crowds to call loudly for Jesus’s crucifixion. Finally, Pilate ordered Jesus’s to be crucified.

Jesus was turned over to Roman soldiers who took him to their quarters, the Praetorium. To mock Jesus’s claim that he was a king, soldiers put a purple (or red) robe on him. Instead of a jewel-encrusted, gold crown or the traditional Roman crown of flowers, the soldiers put a crown of thorns on Jesus’s head. The thorns dug into Jesus’s scalp, adding pain to his whipped and tortured body. The soldiers called out to Jesus mockingly, “Hail, king of the Jews” (Mark 15.18 NIV). Again and again soldiers struck Jesus on the head and face with a reed. They spit on Jesus in a parody of the traditional kiss given to Roman rulers.

After soldiers had sufficient “fun” torturing Jesus, they removed the robe, put Jesus’s own clothes on him, and led him away to be crucified. The soldiers didn’t remove the crown of thorns from Jesus’s head. Jesus went to the cross and hung there with the thorn crown on his head.

Although there is some controversy surrounding the plant used as the crown of thorns, credible sourced identified it as the Paliurus spina-christi, called Christ’s thorn and the Jerusalem thorn.7,10 In Jerusalem the thorn was readily available for Roman soldiers to use when making a “crown” for Jesus’s head. Jerusalem thorn buses have a pair of unequal length, hard, sharp thorns. The longer of the two thorns is up to one inch. Stems and twigs are flexible and hairless. The flexibility of stems and twigs in the Jerusalem thorn made it ideal to plait into a thorn crown.

Symbols of the Jerusalem thorn include grief, tribulation, and sin. Although these are valid symbols, the situation described in Matthew (27.26-31) and Mark’s gospels (15.15-20) suggested “cruelty.” A cruel act is one devoid of human feelings as grief, pain, and injury are inflicted.3 Jesus had been flogged and condemned to death. It was deliberately cruel for Roman soldiers to ridicule and tortured Jesus, to include placing a braided crown of thorns on his head.

Figure 2.6, Paliurus spina-christi (Jerusalem Thorn).

Reflection: Often cruelty is deliberate; but, sometimes cruelty is merely neglect of something we know we should do. Are your cruel to your spouse, children, friends, or co-workers? Are you cruel to your enemies? Is cruelty toward enemies more acceptable Christian behavior than cruelty toward family? Currently, a politician said that we need only be civil to others once they are civil to us. I don’t believe that, nor did Jesus advocate such a position. Jesus said the we are to love our enemies and to be kind to individuals who deliberately hurt us. At this time it is hard to me to see positives in certain political positions. Do you have that challenge? What can we do?

Copyright April 4, 2019; All rights reserved.

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