Thorns--by Kimberly B. Southall
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One of the torments which accompanied Jesus' crucifixion was that a crown of thorns was placed on His head (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2, 5). Was this just one more thing designed to cause Him physical pain, or was there some other significance to it? I searched the scriptures for references to thorns for an answer.

Thorns weren't always on this earth. No, they weren't introduced until sin entered the picture. Thorns were part of the punishment for sin–the curse on the ground (Genesis 3:17-18). And thorns have had a negative connotation ever since.

Israel's enemies were compared to thorns in their sides and even in their eyes because, contrary to God's instructions, they permitted their enemies to survive war (Numbers 33:55) and because they intermarried and associated with the enemy (Joshua 23:12-13). David's enemies were also compared to burning thorns (Psalm 118:12). One of Israel's bad kings, Abimelech, was compared to a thornbush (Judges 9:14-15). Evil men are compared to thorns (2 Samuel 23:6). Thorns are associated with evil (Micah 7:3-4), and they are said to be consumed by wickedness, which is like a fire (Isaiah 9:18).

A fool's harvest is among thorns (Job 5:3-5), the wicked finds his path strewn with thorns (Proverbs 22:5), and the sluggard's field is covered by thorns and his way is blocked by them (Proverbs 15:19; Proverbs 24:30-31).

Thorns are associated with many negative things:

Gideon's enemies were punished by their flesh being torn with desert thorns when they refused bread to his men (Judges 8:7, 16). Thorns were also a specific and literal part of God's judgment in several cases (Isaiah 5:6; Isaiah 7:19, 23-25; Isaiah 32:13; Isaiah 34:13; Jeremiah 12:13; Hosea 2:6; Hosea 9:6; Hosea 10:8).

Obviously, the nature of thorns is such that they are not gathered by hand; they should be touched only with tools (2 Samuel 23:6-7). And God instructed His people to break their unplowed ground and not to sow among thorns (Jeremiah 4:3).

So, there was a lot more to it than just physical pain when that crown of thorns was placed on Jesus' head that fateful day. That crown of thorns represented the sin of the world–from the first sin of Adam and Eve through all the foolishness, rebellion, ruin, trouble, fruitlessness, worthlessness, deceitfulness, and immaturity up to that time and to the last sin which will ever be committed until Jesus returns some day. It was all placed upon the head of the only sinless Man to walk the face of this earth. Jesus wore that crown of thorns which represented all that was evil not because He deserved it; He wore it because of His love for all of us. But that, of course, is not the end of the story.

There was a reason that God warned his prophet, Ezekiel, not to be afraid of the "thorns" (rebellious people) who surrounded him (Ezekiel 2:6). You see, God is more than capable of removing those thorns (Ezekiel 28:24). Indeed, whether literal thorns or wicked people who are figurative thorns, God's Word makes it clear that the destiny of thorns is fire (Isaiah 27:4; Isaiah 33:12; Hebrews 6:8). Isaiah prophesied:

The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers. Isaiah 10:17 (NIV)

And Jesus fulfilled that prophecy! Jesus overcame that curse of sin. He consumed those "thorns." He wore the crown of thorns and literally all of the sin which it represented, and he burned and consumed it when He was crucified and resurrected. What a wonderful Savior!

Alas, just as the apostle Paul had to deal with a thorn in the flesh, which he also described as a messenger of Satan (2 Corinthians 12:7), we also still have to deal with thorns today–both the literal ones and the figurative ones (evil people and their acts). We are still living on this earth which is under the curse of sin. But as Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, we can look forward to His return someday. We can look forward to the new Jerusalem–a new heaven and a new earth–which will have no thorns (or death or mourning or crying or pain . . .) (Revelation 21:1-4). And it's all because Jesus loved us enough to wear and conquer those thorns.

Copyright © 2003 Kimberly B. Southall.  All rights reserved.