What Jesus’s “crown of thorns” means for the “thorns” in your work

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. (John 19:1-3)

God never intended for work to be painful and frustrating. According to Genesis 1 and 2, work was God’s first gift to humankind!

But when sin entered the world, the curse broke every part of creation, including the world of work. God told Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you” (see Genesis 3:17-18).

That backstory makes the Romans’ choice of a “crown of thorns” for Jesus all the more interesting. Knowingly or not, the Romans used a thorn—this symbol of the curse—to crown the One whose resurrection would overturn that curse. It is precisely because Christ allowed himself to be crowned with thorns that, three days later, we could sing:

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

And Scripture makes clear that Christ’s blessings flow even to our cursed work. In Isaiah’s prophetic vision of the Eternal Heaven on Earth, he reports God as saying:

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth….[My people] will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit…my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labor in vain.” (Isaiah 65:17, 21-23)

No more thorns and thistles. No more painful toil. No more leaving the office demoralized by how little “real work” you got done. This is work as it was always intended to be and always will be on the New Earth.

Throughout this series, I’ve argued that we should lament and give thanks for the “thorns and thistles” that make our work difficult today. Everything we’ve just seen points to the next reason why: We should give thanks for thorns and thistles because they can lead us to long for eternity. And the more bitter our work in this life, the sweeter the hope of perfect work with Christ will be.

When your work feels painful today, look to Jesus’s crown of thorns and remember that redemption does indeed flow far as the curse is found—even to the thorns that thwart your work. And thank God for the thorns and thistles that lead you to hope for the day when you will “long enjoy the work of your hands.”


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