Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sermon / Homily on John 19:1-3

Christ Crowned With Thorns (John 19:1-3)

by Ralph Bouma

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands (John 19:1-3).

The immediate question that would come to our human reasoning is: "How could this be?" Where is the renowned Roman justice? The Apostle Paul argued before Felix, being a Roman and uncondemned. Here we see our Saviour standing before the Roman court uncondemned. How is it that Pilate took Him and scourged Him? Why were the soldiers allowed to put a crown of thorns on His head, to put a purple robe on Him and mock Him and smite Him with their hands?

In John 19:4-6 we read: "Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him." Not only was He uncondemned, Pilate had declared that He was innocent.

What significance do we see in this exception to the Roman justice under whose jurisdiction Christ was tried? He was condemned by the Jews for His confession that He was the Son of God. We read in verses 7 to 12: "The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him."

Continuing in verse 16 we read: "Then delivered he him therefore unto them -uncondemned- to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away."

The significance is found in the crown of thorns and the purple robe. He received His judgment from God. This crown of thorns finds its significance in the curse of the broken law. Genesis 3:17-18 says: "And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field."

These thorns in the crown that was put on our Saviour's head represent the curse of the broken law that we deserved, being placed on the head of our substitute. Galatians 3:13 says: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." When the Old Testament priests offered sacrifices they laid their hands on the head of the offering, placing the sins there and then the sin offering was burned on the altar as a type of Christ receiving our sins placed on His head.

We find this same significance in the robe in Matthew 27:28: "And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe." See again how this scarlet robe teaches the same principle. Isaiah 1:18 says: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." It is a wonder that God would have such love for us, rebels who have hated God, rebels that have turned our backs on Him, that He would restrain His love for His own Son for the love He had for us.

So our Substitute was robed in our sins that we might be robed in His righteousness. Revelation 19:13-14 says: "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean."

The atonement of Christ is what opens the way for us to stand righteous before God. This "fine linen, clean and white," is what we find spoken of in Revelation 19:6-9: "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God."

You and I are the ones who placed the crown of thorns on His head, who clothed Him with the purple robe, who pierced His hands and feet with our sins. We by nature have hatred in our heart against God and do not want Him to reign over us. But God in His sovereign grace gives us a renewed mind and a right attitude. He gives us remorse over sins. He gives us to delight to do His will. The fault was not in Christ, it was in you and me.

Christ's kingdom of light was so derided because Satan fully understood how diametrically opposed it was to his kingdom of darkness. Satan has no quarrel with giving you all the religion you want as long as it does not change your heart, as long as there is no repentance and you keep serving sin. This is what we see in Romans 5:20-21: "Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."

Every sin of ours that Christ came to atone for was represented in that crown of thorns and in that scarlet robe. We need to identify our sins one by one as the thorns in His crown. We need to examine each our own hearts to see the ugly nature of those sins that were typified in our humble Saviour's crown of thorns and His scarlet robe.

Jeremiah 17:9 says: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" It is easy to think that we are holier than the Jewish mob or the soldiers, but our hearts are desperately wicked. The nature of our hearts was revealed in the scourging and crucifixion.

This deceitful heart of man was revealed in its foulest colors as our Saviour stood trial before the Roman court, which was renowned for pure justice. Romans 3:12-18 describes the nature of our human heart: "They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Why do we see such a glaring revelation of this fallen nature of man rush forth at the trial of our Saviour? Romans 3:19 says: "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." This is the only way we can come before God's throne and seek forgiveness, when we see that it was our sins that nailed Christ to the cross.

Never before nor shall it ever again be that the full extent of the desperation of the wicked heart, the enmity of the carnal mind, and the unspeakable vile nature of sin would be so evidently set forth as it was in that crown of thorns and in that scarlet robe.

Being fully vindicated by this Roman court, our Saviour voluntarily gave Himself an offering for sin. See what our Saviour told His enemies who thought they could take Him by force in Luke 22:52-53: "Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness."

On the day that sin entered the world, our Jehovah pronounced this curse upon Satan that we read in Genesis 3:14-15: "And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." The Lord gave Satan license to bruise Jesus' heel, but Jesus bruised the head of Satan.

See how that enmity was born in Satan's heart long before God was manifest in the flesh. Revelation 12:3-5 says: "And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne." Satan has ruled all people, yet he had no authority over Christ.

Satan devised the crafty design of Herod that we read of in Matthew 2:16-18: "Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."

However, Satan's crafty design was foiled as we see in Matthew 2:13-15: "And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son." The Lord took Him out of the claws of Satan. He was never under the power and dominion of the kingdom of darkness. Satan could not stop the plan of salvation.

Even as Christ was come to the hour to atone for sin, sin in its true nature was revealed. Not only was Christ crowned with our sins, and not only was He robed with our sins, but He was made to be sin for us as we see in 2 Corinthians 5:21: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." This far passes being pardoned. We can stand before God perfectly righteous as never having sinned.

Our Saviour was clothed with a robe of contempt that we might receive the robe of His righteousness as we see in Isaiah 61:10: "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." We are not only clothed with the robes of righteousness, but with the garments of salvation.

The passover lamb was a prophecy or type of what Pilate affirmed in His judgment of our Lord and Saviour as we see in Exodus 12:5: "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year -in the prime of its life-: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats." Jesus was 30 years old and sinless when He died. He did not inherit the sin of Adam because He was conceived of the Holy Spirit.

The innocence of Christ was affirmed not only by Pilate but by many witnesses, including His greatest enemies as we see in Matthew 27:3-5: "Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself."

See the testimony of Pilate's wife in Matthew 27:17-18: "Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him."

Our Saviour came forth wearing our sins as a crown and a robe; are we ashamed to submit to following Him in the way of the cross? Hebrews 13:12-16 says: "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."

Pity those who all they have is contained in this life. We must do good even to those who slander us and hate us for Christ's name sake. We must pray for those who despitefully use us and bless those who curse us, and speak well of those who slander us.

Do we fall on our knees before the Lord or do we still pierce Him with our sins and smite Him with our hands? We must examine ourselves and see if we come with Him outside the camp and accept His reproach. We have no continuing city here, but we do seek one to come.

See Also:

Sermons for Good Friday

Sermon Collection Based on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross

Sermons for Passion Week

Passion Week Supplement in Malankara World

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