Summary: Crowns have been symbols of authority, power and honor and in some instances expressions of victory throughout the history of humankind. Stewardship Director Migual Luna talks about the symbolism of the crown.
The crown of thorns points out the sacrifice of Jesus as the Son of Man who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). At the interrogation trial of Jesus, Pilate asked “are you the king of the Jews?” (Matt 27:11a) and it was His firm answer “Yes, It is as you say” (Matt 27:11b). After this final trial Jesus was “flogged and handed …over to be crucified” (Matt 27:26). At the Praetorium the soldiers “stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and 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” (Matt 27:28-30; cf. Mark 15:17). This was a mock imitation of a royal crown so “when Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, "Crucify! Crucify!" But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him" (John 19:5-6). After the trial and mockery at the Praetorium Jesus was crucified at Golgotha.
In this context, the crown of thorns came to symbolize His suffering and death as expiation for sinners. As the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, Jesus understood His mission as savior and redeemer. After the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the son of the living God (Matt 16:16), Jesus clearly states the suffering, death and resurrection to follow. “Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!" (Matt 20:17-19). And after His eschatological discourse in Matt 24; 25, He again repeated the same message, "As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified" (Matt 26:2). Finally, at the Last Supper He mentioned to His disciples: “this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is pour out for you” (Luke 22:20).
Following His resurrection, Jesus clearly indicated that His sacrifice was necessary in order to fulfill the promises anticipated in the Old Testament so “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).
In an encounter with His disciples “He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things (Luke 24:44-48). Clearly Jesus fulfilled His mission as the servant suffering and entrusted His disciples to teach and preach His sacrifice and now from a perspective of “repentance and forgiveness of sins.”
During the experience of Pentecost, the apostle Peter mentioned this historical salvific event of the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, reassuring the crowd about Jesus’ ministry (Acts 2:22-24). And he pointed out the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and heard” (Acts 2:32-34). And finally Peter concluded "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:26). Interestingly enough in his discourse Peter was presenting two things: Jesus’ sacrifice and his exalted position in glory as Lord after His resurrection.
In synthesis, the crown of thorns, a mockery of Jesus Kingdom, came to symbolize His sacrifice in behalf of humanity (2 Cor 5:21) and after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to Heaven (Acts 1:9-11) the crown now symbolizes Jesus as our Lord and King.
The crown of glory
In contrast to the crown of thorns, the epistles and the book of Revelation teach the literal and figurative crown of glory. In the middle of the book of Revelation in the section that focuses on the judgment, John looked at Jesus "like a son of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand (Rev 14:14). That description now mentions Jesus as King and Judge who is coming to give a final reward to His people.
In the last section of the book of Revelation the coming of the Lord is portrayed as Jesus coming with many crowns (Rev 19:11-13). This is the one who is called KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Rev 19:16). Jesus is seen now as wearing a crown of glory at the climactic fulfillment of the promise to establish the kingdom of God (Mark 1:15). Those who wait for the blessed hope will also participate in that crown of glory which will be a crown of victory.
From the writings of the apostle Paul it is possible to suggest the final outcome receiving a crown of victory. So, it is the apostle Paul who compares the final outcome of the Christian life with an athletic race by which figuratively the runners will get the crown of victory “that will last forever” (1 Cor 9:24-26). Paul also wants Timothy to understand that those who trust in the Lord and His righteousness will get the crown of righteousness. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Tim 4:7-9).
The symbolism from the crown of thorns to a crown of glory show us the two important phases of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, first a sacrifice for sinners and second as King in His coming to reward His people in the final judgment. The fact that crowns were put on the heads of priests and kings also suggests the ministry of Jesus as High Priest and King (Hebrews 1, 7). Jesus is the combined fulfillment of the types of priests and kings of Israel. He mentions to the teachers of the law, “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here” (Matt 12:6), and “now one greater than Solomon is here” (Matt 12:42). In that particular dimension the crown of glory typify His ministry as High Priest and King. In this second dimension of His ministry Jesus promises a crown of eternal life for the people of His covenant, for those who are faithful Jesus will give the “crown of life” (Rev 2:10).
That pin distributed by the Stewardship Ministries, through a combination of a crown of thorns and glory, brings light to the ministry of Jesus for salvation of humanity and for a commitment of Jesus’ disciples to accept Him as Savior and Lord of their lives.