The Testimony of the Thorns

Bible Book: Matthew  27 : 27-31
Subject: Cross, The; Thorns Jesus Wore, The; God, Love of; Love of God

Often children misunderstand what we are doing in worship. One little boy who had not been in big church, saw the choir come into the service wearing white robes. He looked up at his daddy and said, "Look, Daddy, they are all going to get haircuts."

In North Carolina, where I pastored before coming here some years ago, a grandmother sat with her little granddaughter in a morning worship service. The little girl was wiggling around and talking. The grandmother leaned over and said, "You are in big church and you are going to have to be quiet." The little girl just kept talking. After another warning, the little girl looked up at her grandmother, pointed at me preaching in the pulpit and said, "Why can't I talk, he's talking in big church?"

It is important for children to learn the significance of what we are doing in worship. But it is just as important for us to understand the significance of many Bible truths which may escape us. Today I want us to learn something special about the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, especially as it relates to the crown of thorns that He wore on that day.

Our text today comes from Matthew 27:27-31. Among the sufferings which our Lord endured for our sins, was the horrible experience of the crown of thorns which was pressed upon His head. Our Lord had been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas had betrayed the Lord with a kiss. Literally, Judas kissed heaven's door and then went to hell. I fear there are many who get close enough to embrace Jesus but then withdraw and never fully accept Him as Savior and Lord.

After Jesus was arrested, He was taken through the process of a mock, counterfeit, false, phony series of trials. He ended up before Pilate who realized Jesus was not guilty of anything but Pilate desperately wanted to please the people. What a shame, Pilate was so near to Christ and Salvation, but for popularity he turned off the valve of faith in his heart! I fear there are many who feel the impulse to embrace Jesus but stumble because they are worried about what someone may think about them.

Pilate washed his hands of the matter, as if anyone can actually wash their hands of Jesus. He appealed to the crowd and they shouted, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" So Pilate turned Jesus over to the soldiers and the horror began in earnest.

The soldiers made sport of our Lord. They put a robe on Him to simulate the regal robe of a King. If only they could have seen the Robe He left in glory when He departed for earth to be our Savior, their actions would have been different. If only they could have known that He really was a King - No! Not just a king, but THE KING!

Then they took a thorn bush, and from it wove together a crown of thorns and pressed them down upon His brow. The blood surely rushed out and down through His hair, down into His eyes and ears, down into his beard like a mighty waterfall. If only they could have known that the blood spilling from Jesus that day was a waterfall, it was the Water of Life, it was the flow of grace across His face!

They put a reed in His hand to symbolize the staff of a king. Bowing down, they mocked Him. If only they could have known that He was worthy of their bowing! One day every knee will bow to Jesus and exclaim that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Then they led Him out to die upon the cross.

I want us to concentrate a few moments on that crown of thorns upon the head of our Lord. Think with me about the message from that crown. Let those thorns speak to your heart today. What do they say to us?

I. The Thorns Speak Of Condemnation

In Genesis 3:17-19 we read, "To Adam he said, 'Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, you must not eat of it, Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.'"

The thorns were a direct result of sin. The thorn with its horrible piercing point is a symbol of what sin does to the soul. The thorn is part of the condemnation upon us and this world for sin.

Think of Jesus, the King of Glory, wearing a Crown of Thorns upon the cross. This speaks of the condemnation He was willing to accept for our sins.

Thorns have always been part of the condemnation of God against sinful activity. Look at Joshua 23:13, "Then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and THORNS in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you." God said that enemies to be thorns in the eye to the nation that had forgotten Him!

Some people think wickedness is pleasure, and it is for a season, But when you walk down the path of sin you soon begin to step on the thorns of God's condemnation. Look at Proverbs 22:5, "In the paths of the wicked lie THRONS and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them."

Thorns are a sign of the condemnation and anger of the Lord. In Jeremiah 12:13 we read, "They will sow wheat but reap THORNS; they will wear themselves out but gain nothing. So bear the shame of your harvest because of the LORD's fierce anger."

Other verses could be pointed out, but I think you have the point - no pun intended. Thorns indicate the anger of the Lord against sin.

So Jesus had a crown of thorns placed on His head. But wait, He knew no sin. He committed no sin. Precisely! He took the thorns which were really ours to bear and He became our substitute. Those thorns should have been shoved into my head, my brow, but they were placed on His brow instead. He who knew no sin became sin for us. All the wrath of God was placed on Jesus. No wonder the songwriter penned,

"Lifted up was He to die,

It is finished was His cry, Hallelujah, what a Savior.”

II. The Thorns Speak Of Anticipation

We cannot look upon the crown on the head of Jesus without thinking of a day yet to come. You see, on that day long ago, Jesus wore a crown of thorns for us, but one glorious day He will wear another crown - a crown of glory. In fact, He will be crowned with many crowns. The hymn writer wrote,

"Crown Him with many crowns,

The Lord upon His throne."

Indeed, He will be crowned with many crowns. Look at Revelation 19:12, "His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself."

The first time He came, He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

The next time He comes, He will ride on a white stallion.

The first time He came, He was judged by men.

The next time He comes, He will judge all men.

The first time He came, He wore a crown of thorns.

The next time He comes, He will wear the diadem of the Victor!

Are you ready if He should come back today? Let the crown of thorns serve as a reminder that He will never wear them again. He is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. All authority is given unto Him in heaven and earth. Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord.

III. The Thorns Speak Of Adoration

The thorns were worn by our Lord because of His great love for us. You need to know that the thorns He wore were not the little briers like those we see in Georgia. These were not those tiny menacing prick points which draw a little blood and sting a bit. The thorns in Israel grow like spikes and resemble the length and pointed nature of a long finishing nail. They were known to wound terribly and even kill if plunged into a vital organ. Jesus bore thorns on His head that were probably two or three inches long and when pressed down upon the head would feel like a ring of nails going down to the very bone – to His skull.

Why did Jesus wear a crown of thorns for sinners like us? Why did He suffer so much agony for you and for me? He did it because He loves us! John 3:16 tells us that. The suffering He endured speaks of His love for ruined sinners. Surely you know that we do not deserve such love.

On the twenty-first of April, 1864, in the little village of East Leister in England, Jane Merrick, a precious Baptist woman and school teacher, cradled in her arms her precious little son that had just been born. Taking a character from the Bible whom she loved, John the Baptist, she named her son John - John Merrick. The joy was short-lived; however, because before long he began to develop hideously. John Merrick, later to be called the "Elephant Man," was an indescribable genetic disaster. Soon his head began to take on the misshapen effects that would later cause women to gasp upon seeing him, and run sick to their stomachs from the encounter. One of his arms grew so large that it looked as though it were the trunk of an elephant, while his left arm remained entirely normal. His spine began to curve and he began to develop huge segments of skin unnecessarily, and they putrefied and had a terrible odor.

John Merrick then lost his mother - the only one who loved him, at age 12 in a tragic accident. As a teenager, rejected by society, looking increasingly more obnoxious and hideous by the day, John Merrick ran away from home. He soon found himself in the hands of an unscrupulous exhibitor, who made a sign advertising the Elephant Man, and charged two-pence apiece for a look at this hideous human. He was suffering from what was later called Van Recklehausen's syndrome, a genetic disease now known as multiple neurofibermetosis. And that poor man, at age 20, had become so deformed, such a recluse, and so utterly beaten down by his condition that he could scarcely even look up through his one good eye at those who stared at him.

When he was 20 years old, in 1884, a physician by the name of Fredrick Trebis happened to pay the two-pence to see him, and became interested in him. He eventually moved John to London Hospital. Trebis thought that this man would never be able to communicate, but then one day the doctor understood John for the first time. And do you know what The Elephant Man, John Merrick was saying? He was repeating one of the two things he had read from the Bible. And that young man, the Elephant Man as he is known today, was repeating the twenty-third Psalm: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil."

Realizing that John was a thinker and that he was sensitive, Trebis began to bring various people to meet him. One day, a beautiful widow met John Merrick. When she was ready to leave, instead of the same reaction that most women had, she pressed forward and took John Merrick by the hand. When she did, it was the first human touch from a woman that he had felt since his mother died, and The Elephant man began to weep.

Trebis, sensing the unusual situation, and knowing that Merrick had become a student of the theater, brought William Kindle of the Drury Lane Theater to see him. Like most people, the first moment she saw him, she was utterly repulsed. She managed to keep back the expression that she felt in her heart so that it did not come to her face, but as often as Merrick would look away, as she later testified, she herself would turn away and shake her head and fight back the tears. She could not imagine a human being so hideously misshapen, so totally repulsive. How In the world could she even carry on a conversation with him? Then God began to do a work in her heart. Do you know what happened? When she got ready to leave, God spoke to her heart. She got up, crossed the room and not only extend her hand to the Elephant Man, but she embraced him in her beautiful arms. As she leaned over, this famous and beautiful actress planted a kiss on the misshapen, inarticulate lips of John Merrick. It was the only kiss he had ever experienced. His shoulders began to wrench and tears burst from his eyes. And he began to weep, understanding what it had taken for her to do that.

Do you not understand that this describes exactly what we're talking about when we speak of what Jesus did for us? Indeed, Jesus did even more than that for us. Jesus Christ of Nazareth, when the Eternal God, holy and exalted, above sin, without any iniquity, looked down at our misshapen, malformed sinful selves. Jesus did not turn away from us. He placed the kiss of grace on us and received us. On the Cross, our Lord Jesus Christ stretched out His hands, embraced us everyone, and it was as if heaven He were planting a kiss of the divine on our poor souls.

Oh, yes, the thorns on Jesus speak of His great love for sinners like us. They show us just how much He loved us and how much He paid for our salvation.

IV. The Thorns Speak Of Invitation

The thorns invite us to come to Jesus. He calls all who would be saved to come to Him and receive life, to receive forgiveness. His love reaches out to you from the cross and calls you to a relationship with Him. Turn from self and sin, and trust Him as your Savior today. No one ever loved you like Jesus!


Evangelist D. L. Moody once told a story about two men who, under the influence of liquor, found their way to the dock where their boat was tied. The two men wanted to return home, so they got in the boat and began to row. Though they rowed hard all night, they did not reach the other side of the bay. When the gray dawn of the morning broke, they were in exactly the same spot from which they started. They had neglected to loosen the mooring-line and raise the anchor!

Mr. Moody used this story as an example of the way in which many people are tied to this world. They want to go to heaven, but won't cast off what holds them back. "Cut the cord! Cut the cord!" Moody would roar. Yes, that is what we should do, cut the cord with the world and flee to the One who wore the crown of thorns for you.