instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Crowned King

There is a pious belief that the crown of thorns was pressed down on our Lord's head so forcefully that the thorns punctured His brain. St. Catherine of Siena reported a vision in which she was told the wounds from the crown were mortal and would have eventually killed Jesus.

I neither affirm nor deny that belief. I'll admit it sounds to me more like medieval imagination than First Century history, but I wasn't there, and my own imagination saturates pretty quickly in matters of blood and pain.

It seems to me, though, that, whether or not the crown of thorns would have killed Jesus, it would certainly have killed the belief many had of Jesus as Messiah. Hope may spring eternal, but not from ground sown with the salt of mockery. Oh, the Roman Empire said, is this your king? Sure about that?

The crown of thorns forced a choice on the followers of Jesus. They could abandon their idea of God's kingdom as a kingdom of this world, or they could abandon their idea of Jesus as king of that kingdom.

There would be no last minute rescue, no nursing back to health, no triumphant re-entry into Jerusalem with an army and a crown of gold. Thorns were all the world would ever place on Jesus' head -- and likely more than a circlet placed to lightly prick.

What does the crown of thorns mean? I'd suggest that, for many who were in Jerusalem that day, it was proof that Jesus was no king -- or at best, that He was a failed king. The Apostles who, after His resurrection, asked if He was at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel seem to have been somewhere in the "failed king" territory.

What does the crown of thorns mean to us today? Nothing much, maybe, beyond one more cruelty visited on an innocent man who happened to be God.

I have a pious belief, though, that it is a unique and special glory of Jesus. He came to us as our king, and accepted the only crown we saw fit to give Him. In doing so, He took upon Himself, and incorporated into His salvific passion, the perversion of piety our fallen nature is heir to -- a perversion according to which it hardly matters whether He is our true king, because we treat our true kings the same way we treat the fake ones.

And if, as it seems He does, Jesus still bears the wounds of His passion in His body, then I suppose that would include the wounds of that crown, as a glorious sign that He became king of a most perverse people, in obedience to His Father and out of love for those perverts, so many of whom glorify His wounds further by accepting the mercy they have earned for us.