I should have transplanted the cactus to a larger pot a long time ago. The plant was top heavy, and it tipped over as I scooted it to one side in order to water a small succulent. Without thinking, I grabbed the cactus before it toppled off the edge of the shelf. I screeched in pain and surprise.
Now I wear heavy leather gloves to work with cactus. After having to use a magnifying glass and tweezers to get all the fine spines out of my hand, you would think I’d remember to wear the leather gloves when I pruned the rose bush. But I didn’t.
I foolishly thought the long-handled lopper would keep my hands a safe distance away. But it didn’t.
A thorn pierced my thumb and drew blood. You can’t handle spines and thorns unprotected and come away unscathed. Blood will be shed.
As I cleaned the small wound, I remembered the crown of thorns that the Roman soldiers had made in the hours right before Jesus’ crucifixion.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
John 19:1-3 NIV
The soldiers mocked him with their parody of royal raiment and royal greeting.
The robe, thrown across Jesus’ raw shoulders, was the color of nobility.
The staff in Jesus’ hand was a parody of a king’s scepter.
They spit in his face–perhaps a mockery of the kiss of homage customarily given to royalty.
Their “Hail, King of the Jews” was a salutation of ridicule, not the honorific greeting “Hail, Caesar!”
They knelt in front of Jesus and then rose from their knees to crack the staff over his head.
[The soldiers] twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.
Matthew 27:29-30 NIV
I thought about the Roman soldiers who made the crown of thorns. Why go to so much trouble to ridicule someone? It’s not easy to make a crown of thorns.
I tried to weave together pruned raspberry canes (too brittle) and cut-off rose bush branches (too inflexible). Working with heavy gloves was too clumsy, but working without them resulted in more scratches on my hands. I gave up.
How did the Roman soldier make the crown for Jesus, and what was he thinking as he wove it?
How much of the blood from his pierced hands mingled with Jesus’ when the thorny circlet was placed on Jesus’ head? You can’t handle spines and thorns unprotected and come away unscathed. Blood will be shed.
Maybe the soldier meant the crown as a mockery of the Romans’ “civic crown,” which was made of oak leaves and worn by the emperor. Roman soldiers would present the award to someone who had saved the lives of citizens.
Or perhaps the soldier thought of the “grass crown” (a Roman military decoration higher than all others) given to a commander who saved an entire legion or army. The “grass crown” was made of grasses, flowers, or grains found of the battlefield.
What happened to these battle-hardened soldiers when they watched Jesus die? They knew something was different about this man that they had just crucified.
Perhaps they realized that every cynical mockery they had inflicted on Jesus–the staff, the robe, the crown–might have the echo of truth.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!
Matthew 27:54 NIV
Their hearts were pierced by the thorns they had forced onto Jesus’ head and by the nails they had driven into his hands,
because you can’t handle spines and thorns unprotected and come away unscathed.
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My prayer for us all:
that we have a tender and changed heart (like the centurion!) when we remember how Jesus suffered and died for us.
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crown of thorns photos by Barb Briggs
linking with Jennifer Lee Dukes
linking with Laura Boggess