Matthew 27:29; John 19:2; Psalms 8:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; Revelation 4:4-11; 14:14
Distinctive head ornaments have been used as rewards for prowess, and as signs of authority and dominion, for millennia. Laurel wreaths were given in Greece and Rome to victorious athletes and conquering generals. The word “Laureate” used in such terms as “Nobel Laureate” refers to have received the laurel wreath. Chieftains in barbarian tribes typically wore a distinctive helmet, which served in battle to identify the ruler and inspire the troops by his presence. In an English coronation over 1000 years ago, the king was given a helmet, not a traditional crown. The Jewish kings David and Joash, and many non-Jewish kings in the Old Testament, had decorative crowns of gold and precious stones. Both beautiful and visible to all around, crowns set the wearer apart, and worldly authority itself is communicated by the word “Crown”.
Jesus, Creator and Ruler of all the Universe, wore only one crown during His earthly sojourn, a crown of thorns (στέφανον ἐξ ἀκανθῶν – stephanon (crown) ez akanthon (thorn)). This wreath was either woven out of the Syrian Christ-thorn (zizyphus – spina-christi), or the Christ-thorn (paliurus spina-christi), both of which have long, sharp, stiff thorns. Rather than reward or glory, this revealed contempt, mockery, and shame.
In the Bible, crowns are also used to signify victory. Christians will receive a crown of life to signify their victory over death, and a crown of righteousness to signify their victory over sin, both a result of Christ’s work. The ultimate destiny of followers of Jesus is to rule with Him in unimaginable glory over the new heaven and the new earth, serving Him forever.
Men throughout history have killed and died for crowns of gold and precious stones, and the temporary riches and power over others that they entail. Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, Qin Shi Huang in China, Julius Caesar in Rome, Shaka in Zululand, Hitler in Germany, Stalin in the USSR, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and many others caused untold suffering with their dreams of glory. Yet they died, and their empires with them. But those who know and love the Lord bring goodness and mercy to others in this life, and themselves receive perfect, everlasting life in the world to come.
In our lives, it is so tempting to strive for the crowns of fame, money, power and success. We fritter our moments in petty conflicts, trivial insults, and imagined wrongs. Even the heartbreaking real tragedies that we all eventually face pale in comparison to the abundant life which is available to us now, and the magnificent eternity that we have ahead. Christ is the greatest gift, freely available to each person, if we only believe. Comfort, love and peace are in His right hand, and power, purpose, and victory in His left. He is our King, so let us rejoice in Him.
We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are:
Bearing gifts we traverse afar –
Field and fountain, moor and mountain –
Following yonder star
O Star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy Perfect Light.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain:
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to rein
Frankincense to offer have I,
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Pray’r and praising, all men raising,
Worship Him, God most high.
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume,
Breathes of life of gathering gloom –
Sorrow’ng, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
Glorious now behold Him arise:
King and God and Sacrifice;
Earth to heav’n replies.