Crown of Thorns

Every so often, someone in the world somewhere says or does or publishes something that offends Islam. So Muslims the world over burn cars, kill people and hold protests (both violent and peaceful) to declare their indignation. More often something very insulting to Jesus of Nazareth comes into the public square, but rarely do reactions from Christians turn violent. I’ve never been sympathetic to the Muslims, and I don’t endorse overreactions to insults against my Savior. Is it because I think religion doesn’t matter, or because I don’t value my faith? Much to the contrary, it is precisely because of the nature of my Redeemer and the faith I have in him that I don’t engage in defending Christianity against secular and other onslaughts.

During VBS at a Baptist Church during my childhood one of the teachers brought in a crown of thorns someone had made. There, sitting on the table before me, was a crudely woven crown with long, wicked-looking hedge thorns. Being Catholic, I knew what that would have looked like on Jesus’ head. I saw depictions of it on him at church every Sunday. This was not one of those terrible, religion-ruined-my-childhood experiences. It was powerful to my little 7 or 8 year old mind to see this crown of thorns. Without any well-formed atonement theology, I appreciated what Jesus suffered for me.

Reading the relevant verses now and really letting them hit me without filtering and analyzing, sometimes I have a similar experience to that of my childhood. Jesus was ridiculed and mocked, his claim to kingship used to scourge and torment him, yet he took it all with no threats or pleadings. This, my Savior, suffered terrible shame and disgrace and saw everything he stood for belittled, and said nothing.

My faith can be called foolish, people can say the tomb really isn’t empty and I can be derided for believing, but I will follow my King. He is no idol and will not totter and fall if I don’t keep him propped up. In truth, he upholds and sustains me.

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 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. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’” (John 19:1-5 NRSV).

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