Sunday, March 08, 2020

"A Crown of Thorns" [Matt's Messages]

“A Crown of Thorns”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
March 8, 2020 :: Matthew 27:27-37

It so good to be back in the pulpit after two weeks out! What a joy and a privilege it is to study and to preach God’s holy Word. Thank you for opening your Bibles with me. We are going to see precious things together as we read it.

But they are not easy things. They are not happy or light things that we are going to read today. No. We are smack dab in the middle of the worst day in human history. The worst day of Jesus’ life. Because it is the day of Jesus’ death.

For many weeks now we have been following Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew through that crucial holy passion week. And for the last several messages we have been focusing on that last 24 hours.

The Last Passover.

The predictions of Judas’ Betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the disciples’ desertions.

The agonizing facedown prayer in the garden.

The Son saying to the Father, “Your will be done.”

The arrest of our Lord, betrayed with a traitorous kiss.

Our Lord holding back 72,000 angels from wiping out the crowd.

And we keep saying, “It just gets worse.”

It just gets worse.

So much injustice.

Remember the Jewish phase of the trial?

Where they have all of the false witnesses come forward, but their testimony doesn’t agree.

And yet they convict Him?!

And what does Jesus do?

He stays silent.

He confesses that He is the Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man who will come to judge.

But other than that, He stays silent.

Total majesty. Total self-control.

Jesus is in total control of Himself and mysteriously, He is in control of the whole situation!

And it just gets worse.

They spit on Him.
They struck Him with their fists.
They toyed with Him.

And then Peter denied that he even knew Him.

And Judas killed himself without repenting over Him.

And last time, we read about the Roman phase of the trial when Jesus stood before the governor.

It just gets worse.

And it’s so unjust.

But Jesus made no reply. He is obviously fulfilling Isaiah 53 right before our eyes.

Matthew can see it and shows it to us.

Even Pilate can see that Jesus is innocent!

And his wife wants Pilate to release Jesus.

He tries! He tries to free Jesus.

But the crowd, stirred up by Jesus’ enemies shouts, “Crucify Him!”

“Crucify Him!”

So cowardly Pilate tries to wash Jesus off of His hands.

And the crowd is willing is to take Him. Here’s where we left off last time. Verse 25:

“Let [Jesus’] blood be on us and on our children. Then [Pilate] released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged [scourged with a whip with metal or bone on the end of it], and handed him over to be crucified.”

That’s where we left off.

And it just gets worse.

My temptation is to rush through this next part.

It feels like we’ve gone slow long enough. We’ve been at this for a long time.

And this part is terrible and gruesome and awful.

And I am tempted to race right through it.

When I preached Mark and Luke and John, we went through the corresponding parts much quicker.

But I think it’s right for us to slow down and consider what is really going on here.

Because Matthew has a lot to say, and he wants to be heard.

For example, this passage is thick with irony.

Lots of little ironies.

Lots of things are ironic in this story.

Lots of things actually the opposite of what is meant even though what is said is ironically true.

There are lots of upside down and backwards things going on here.

Matthew doesn’t miss any of the divine irony and doesn’t want us to miss it either.

But we might have to go slow to catch it.

So today, I want to try to progress from verse 27 to verse 37.

Under this title, from verse 29, “A Crown of Thorns.”

You can feel the irony right there, can’t you?

A crown but one that is not made of gold, but made of thorns.

It just gets worse.

Matthew 27:27

“Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They 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. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”

Let’s just sit with this for a few minutes.

The governor’s soldiers are Roman soldiers.

He is officially going to be executed by the empire for being seditious.

He has been found guilty and sentenced to death.

So before they crucify Him, they decide to have a little more fun with Him.

They have already tied Him to a post and whipped Him with a sharp whip.

Now, they've drug Him into the Praetorium, Pilate’ palace and the Jerusalem home of the Roman garrison.

And they’ve called all of the soldiers that are present that day to watch their little game.

There will be between 120 and 600 Romans soldiers present at this event.

And they are here to mock and shame our Lord.

Crucifixion was done the way it was to be a warning to others.

“Don’t step out of line, or this will happen to you.”

So, it’s intentionally shameful. Not just painful but shameful.

So that everyone watching says, “I don’t want to be that guy!”

Jesus is convicted of being a king, so they play it up.

They take off his clothes in public, and they put a fake royal robe on Him.

And verse 29 says they “twist together a crown of thorns and set it on his head.”

We don’t know how long the thorns were, but it was not comfortable.

It was meant to hurt Him. To dig into His flesh and make His scalp bleed.

Did you ever have a wound to your head? Do you see how much it bleeds?

When I was a kid, I was swinging from this thing at a rest area, and I feel and cut open my forehead. And there was blood everywhere.

I had to get stitches or something. I was pretty young, but I remember it. I was a little spooked. But I remember there was a lot of blood.

This is a crown made of thorns and pressed onto His head.

And they put a staff of wood (perhaps a bamboo cane that they would use for issuing beatings; they put that in His hands), and they kneel in front of Him.

And they mock Him.

“Hail, king of the Jews!”

But He is!

They think they are so funny, mocking our Lord.

But He is the King of Jews.

And He is the King of all.

Just look at Him!

Look at His bearing. Look at His royalty.

Look at His self-control. The Man of Sorrows.

Right now, He could still call down twelve legions of angels!

But He holds it all back.

Because He has a plan.

Because He is carrying out the Father’s plan.

Because He is fulfilling all of those prophecies.

From the Old Testament and all of the prophecies He’s been making.

How many times has He told the disciples, “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” (Matthew 20:18-19)?

So He holds it all back.

All of this unjust evil is strangely enough going according to His plan.

He is perfect in self-control and sovereign control.

And so He stays silent at His contemptuous coronation.

A crown of thorns.

“Hail, king of the Jews!”

What is that?

This is the Gospel of Matthew right?

Keep your eye on the ball!

This irony; because this truly answers the question, “Who is Jesus?”

But they aren’t asking the question. They are missing it with their disdain and condescension. V.30

They spit on Him. And it just gets worse. V.30

They “took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.”

What’s on His head?

That crown of thorns. And they are beating the thorns into His skull.

Perhaps like hammer nailing the thorns into His cranium.

And it just gets worse.

They mock Him so more and then they take off the robe in public.

And the put his own clothes on His bleeding and broken body.

And they lead Him away to crucify Him.

And we can’t really handle what that is.

Jesus is forced to carry His own cross.

Criminals headed for crucifixion would carry the crosspiece, the horizontal piece from the place of conviction to the place of execution.

And there, they would get either tied to our nailed to the crosspiece and hoisted up 7 feet into the air on an upright stake that was often reused for the next victim.

Wally was telling me last week about a friend of his who is an evangelist and travels across the world literally carrying a cross on his shoulders and talking to people about Jesus.

He’s been a whole bunch of countries and walked across our country several times.

But Jesus had been beaten, scourged, His flesh torn open.

He wasn’t strong enough. Our Lord had probably lost too much blood.

He needed physical help or He would die before He got to Calvary. V.32

“As they were going out [because they always crucified people outside of Jerusalem; crucifixion was a curse that needed to be outside of the camp, as they were going out], they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.”

Imagine being pressed into that service!

Simon is a Jewish name, but Cyrene was in North Africa.

So He was either a Diaspora Jew in what is modern day Libya. Or He was an African native who just happened to have a Jewish name.

One thing we do know is that it wasn’t Simon Peter carrying this cross.

Simon Peter has denied that He even knew Jesus.

He’s not volunteering. Don’t listen to what he says. Look at what he does.

He denies Jesus.

He doesn’t take up his cross.

More on Simon in a minute. But now we come, finally, to the Cross. V.33

“They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).”

It could have actually looked like a skull, or maybe there were just so many skulls around. Because this was where they executed the criminals.

“Golgotha” is the Aramaic word for “Skull-place.”

Our word “Calvary” comes from the Latin version.

"Calva" is Latin for skull.

This is the place of death.

And it just gets worse.

Verse 34.

“There they offered Jesus wine to drink [sounds like the first note of mercy, but it was], mixed with gall [bitter, sharp, acidic, perhaps poisonous]; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.”

It’s possible that the wine would have served as a mild sedative.

But the gall would have made it too harsh to drink.

This was more mockery!

“Here, drink this! Ha!”

This was more mockery, and it was also fulfilling prophecy.

Psalm 69:21, innocent sufferer says, “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”

And then it just gets worse. Verse 35.

“When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

Can you believe how “matter of fact” Matthew is here?

He doesn’t even describe what they did to Jesus.

I don’t if He thought everybody just knew what that was.

Or if He can’t bring Himself to describe it!

They nailed Him to the Cross and he would have pulled Himself up to breath and then been unable to stay up and would have fallen down and hung from the nails bleeding out and suffocating.

For hours.

With a crown of thorns on His head.

And no other clothes.

Perhaps a loincloth to satisfy the propriety of the Jews.

But as much shame as they could heap upon Him as He suffered on that tree. V.35

“When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

Cloak, belt, sandals. He has nothing now. Absolutely nothing.

And yes, that’s another fulfillment of prophecy. Psalm 22:18.

And then it just gets worse.


“And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.”

It’s like their bored.

They probably were.

They’ve seen it all before. They’ve killed guys before.

They’ve humiliated guys before.

And all the guy is doing is just struggling there to stay alive.

Pull up, strain, bleed, collapse. Suffocate. Pull up.

For hours.

But they aren’t allowed to go anywhere. Somebody might try to help the poor schmuck.

No, they’ve to wait around till shift change. Nothing to do.

Why is He here?

Don’t take your eye off of the ball.

This is the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew never misses a chance to tell us Who Jesus really is. Verse 37.

“Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

That’s why He’s here.

He’s been convicted!

He claimed to be a king.

And Caesar won’t have it.

The Gospel of John says that Pilate had it written in three different languages:

Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.

In Latin the initials of four main words there are INRI.

If you ever see that, that’s what it stands for: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

And that’s Who He really is!

Wearing the Crown of Thorns.

I’m afraid that we’re going to leave Jesus hanging there.

Lord-willing, we will start in verse 38 next week.

Right now, though, as we go to the Table together, I want us to think about the implications of what we’ve just read for our lives today.

How should we then live?

If this is what happened, how should you and I respond?

I’ve got three applications to mention, and they all help us to focus our hearts as we go to the table.


What they were doing ironically, we should be doing truthfully.

Jesus is the King of the Jews!

And He is the King of the Universe!

So we should repent of our sins and receive Him as Lord.

He is even more Lord now (if we can use that language) because He wore the crown of thorns!

Hail Jesus as Your King!

Marvel at His self-control and His sovereign control and bow before Him.

Acknowledge Jesus’ Lordship over every area of your life.

Number two:


We should be grateful to Jesus for what He went through for us every single day.

Another great irony here at work is that not only is Jesus the King when the mock Him as king, but His crucifixion is not ultimately humiliating but salvific!

He’s saving us here!

If He’s pulling off fulfillments of Psalm 69 and Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, then He’s pulling off salvation for His people!

This is where He is doing what He said just a few hours before during the Passover meal.

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (26:26-28).

And then He poured out His blood!

Thank Him!

Thank Him for taking the beatings.
Thank Him for taking the mocking.
Thank Him for taking the spitting.
Thank Him for taking the humiliation.

Thank Him for wearing the crown of thorns.

One more.


Follow Jesus as your example.

Matthew doesn’t emphasize this right here, but He does elsewhere and so does the rest of the New Testament.

The Apostle Peter said about this day, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps...” (1 Peter 2:21).

And Jesus Himself said in Matthew, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

And I wonder if Simon of Cyrene isn’t a picture of that for us.

He might have been forced at that moment to carry the cross.

But carrying the cross is what you and I are supposed to do.

And there is some evidence that points to the fact that Simon eventually became a Christian.

According to Mark, Simon has two sons named Alexander and Rufus.

And there is a guy named Rufus who is named in the book of Romans as a follower of Christ. Very likely the same guy.

Maybe Simon became a follower of Jesus.

And took his own cross in discipleship.

Regardless, you and I are called to die to ourselves and live for Jesus.

Following His perfect example.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes
63. Birth Pains
64. The Coming of the Son of Man
65. No One Knows
66. Keep Watch
67. Well Done!
68. When Did We See You?
69. A Beautiful Thing
70. "The Passover With My Disciples"
71. "This Very Night"
72. "It Must Happen in this Way"
73. "He Is Worthy"
74. Disowned and Condemned
75. Jesus Stood Before the Governor