This year as we approach Passover/Good Friday and Easter I have been gripped by the imagery of the crowns that Jesus has worn. I invite you to look for a moment with me at the “crowns of Jesus”
The First Crown: Suffering
In Mark 15:16 we hear of the first crown we will look at – the crown of thorns.
Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison. And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and began to salute Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" (Mark 15:16-18)
In this passage, we see Jesus, the suffering servant. This horrific scene depicts a man who is brutally wounded and crushed.
First, the Roman soldiers twist large thorny branches into a cruel instrument of torture. They take this prickly and spiny circle and smash it on to Jesus’ head so that the thorns pierce deep into his skin. Then on top of the physical abuse, they begin to mock Him and hurl insults at him.
What is left is a man who has been physically broken, publicly humiliated, and psychologically and spiritually assaulted. Disfigured by his captors, Jesus the man, bears not only the pain of injury but the sting of hate, rage, violence, racism, and loneliness upon His soul - all because of His love for you and me.
This is Jesus crowned with suffering.
The Second Crown: Glory
In Revelations 14:14 we are witness to a glorious unveiling of this God-man. It is the polar opposite of the vision of the broken man in Mark’s account.
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. (Rev 14:14-16)
We see Jesus not as despised, denigrated and alone, but the Son of Man sitting in a cloud, speaking of the highest place, far above all things in the universe. He is no longer bearing a twisted crown of thorns, but now He wears a golden crown. Gold symbolizing purity and authority.
He is not simply crowned or appointed with authority like some figure-head monarch but His authority carries with it swift and direct action. He swings his sickle to harvest the earth, and John makes it clear that there was no “second swing” needed. He says it as clearly as can be “the earth was reaped.” Make no mistake, this sovereign acts with incredible power, complete accuracy, and total efficiency. He is the Judge and “righteous and true” (Rev. 16:7) are all His ways.
This is Jesus crowned with glory.
The Two Crowns Together
As I considered these two stark pictures I began to see that it is only when we hold these two seemingly opposite images of Jesus in tension that we see a fuller and more complete picture of who Jesus is.
If we only see Him as the one crowned with suffering we can become fixated on the brokenness, denial of self, and humiliation of Christ. The danger is that we see only the bleakness of the world.
If we only see Him as the one crowned with glory, we can become fixated on the power, majesty, and glory of Christ, and live disconnected from the very broken world we are to display those very realities to.
We must allow the Holy Spirit to help us to see The Suffering One is also the Victorious King. It is in the space of this mystery of the wounded Lamb and mighty Lion that we enter into the fullness of the song of the heaven:
And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth." (Rev 5:9-10)
Our Crown from Christ
In this eternal chorus, the slain one is also the crowned one, and the crowning one. Jesus not only wears the crown, But He also bestows them on you and me. We have been made kings. Kings are those who have been given authority signified by the crown they wear.
The purpose of our authority is to reign on the earth.
This is not a little assignment, especially for fragile humanity. How on earth (literally!) are we who are prone to the abuse of power, supposed to righteously administrate heaven’s government here in time and space?
Because we also have been allowed the privilege of “the fellowship of His suffering” (Ph. 3:10). To be clear, God does not “crown” us with suffering. It is not God’s plan to inflict pain for pain’s sake. Instead he meets us in the midst of our journey, in the midst of the challenges, taking these broken moments to reveal more of Himself and more of who we are in Him.
Our Crowns to Christ
Finally, as through revelation we come face-to-face with this glorious, wounded yet triumphant King who bestows His goodness on us, the only appropriate response that we can have as is to worship by laying down the very thing we were given – our crowns. Not in self-effacement or false humility, but in utter joy and sweet surrender we join with elders around the throne.
The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: "You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created." (Rev 4:10-11)
As we see the Lord may we allow the Spirit to reveal the power of both the crown of suffering and the crown of glory, and may we join the glorious activity of eternity exalting this one who is crowned with many crowns.