Today we come to chapter 9 of The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy. And today the author focuses on the words of John 19:5 and the crown of thorns. “So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’” Leahy looks to the shame, the significance and the wonder of this brutal crown.
There he stood, his face bruised, swollen and bleeding, and that thorny crown upon his head. He was so alone, “friendless, forsaken, betrayed by all.” That crown symbolized what sinful man thinks of Christ. He was not to be taken seriously. He was only fit for a stage-play! They made him a carnival king and placed on him the stamp of derision. With this mock robe, reed scepter and crown of thorns, he was made to look like a theatrical figure. Luther says Christ was “numbered with the transgressors, crucified as a rebel, killed by his own people in supreme disgrace, and as the most abandoned of men.” Ah yes! “Supreme disgrace,” as the shameful crown of thorns woven by the hands of men and placed on the Saviour’s brow–man’s estimate of Christ!
Christians may well be troubled and moved by this sight. Not so the crowd outside Pilate’s palace. As Pilate pointed to that battered, bleeding figure saying, “Behold the man!” he hoped for some pity, some compassion, but he hoped in vain. That sight only served to heighten their lust for blood. Had he not suffered enough? Did this not satisfy them? Could this pathetic figure really be a threat to them? But all that smote Pilate’s ears was the steady chanting of “Crucify…Crucify” (there is no “him” in the original)–a veritable crescendo of angry voices. What cries greeted the Saviour in those few eventful days! Hosanna! Hosanna! … Crucify! Crucify! They could not bear the light of the world; they felt more at ease in the darkness of deception and hypocrisy. As Krumacher says, they could not endure “the broad daylight of unvarnished truth.” The Holy One of Israel exposed them, unmasked them, condemned them and they turned against him with vicious hatred and a consuming desire to destroy him. They would give no glory to this Jesus, no honor, nothing but shame and contempt. The crown of thorns pleased them well. That is the response of the heart of fallen man to the Lord’s Christ. Nothing has changed. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us’” (Psalm 2:2,3).