Thorns, thistles, briers, nettles, and brambles are some of the names and plant parts that have pointy things that cause discomfort. What do these have to do with Easter? Okay, I will get to the point of this post. These were part of the curse found in Genesis 3: 17 – 19 for Adam because he ate the forbidden fruit. Matthew, Mark, and John add thorns as part of the misery that the Romans gave Jesus at the time of His crucifixion. I will attempt to bring these events together in this brief study of thorns.
Hebrews 6: 8 beautifully brings together the spiritual and physical aspects of thorns by being part of the “basic teachings” and blessings mentioned in the chapter. It mentions them being a curse, worthless, and getting burned. This verse fits well with the parables when Jesus used them to show the “deceitfulness of wealth and the worries that choke the good seed”. (Matthew 13: 22) Most of the references to thorns are about them causing problems and having to be beaten down and burned. In a land where wood was precious, thorns were not, so they would be used for fuel to cook with.
Foreshadowing verses for the crown of thorns and what will happen to them are in Isaiah and Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 2: 6, which is his call to ministry, God tells him that he will be surrounded by thorns, thistles, and scorpions. This is a good picture of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
Isaiah 27:4 speaks to the redemptive work of Jesus with the plea that He guards His vineyard to protect it. He would prefer people to make peace with Him but if not, He will burn them up. Isaiah 10: 17 speaks of the “day” (judgment) when the Light of the world will burn the thorns and thistles.
Mark 15:17, John 19:2, and Matthew 27: 29 mention the crown of thorns. Matthew is the most detailed and talks about the thorns being twisted and then being beaten onto Jesus’ head. So why the thorns? They are part of the curse that Jesus was dying to end. Most of the references for redemption are about people/Israel. He will make a new heaven and a new earth but Jesus came to break the curse. Creation groaned waiting for Him, trees of the field will clap their hands for Him, and He will bring rest to the Land, even the rocks can cry out for Him. Isaiah 35: 1 and Jeremiah 50: 34 are verses that mention good things about the Land.
Thorns also represent worries and cares that bother our minds. He took those on His “mind” to the cross. And just as thorns were beaten to prepare them for burning, so the crown was beaten into His head.
Remember, with the beatings, nails, cross, and His blood the crown of thorns also carry important symbolism.
Below are two good websites about thorns and thistles.