Since God had commissioned man to “work” the ground in the Garden of Eden, the curse on the ground brought difficulties that hadn’t existed before. Man’s work will become just that “work.” I’ve often thought, “what would it be like if what you wanted to do, was what you had to do?” Or better, what you had to do was what you wanted to do? I remember my elementary years with great nostalgia, the summers especially. I was free in the summer! No homework, no report cards that I was always afraid to show and no early morning alarm clocks. Yet, I was excited to get up at 5am and walk all the way to the lagoon at Miller Park to fish. But life in general is not like that. It might be briefly, but sooner or later everything becomes work. Not just work, but “hard work.” When school started again in the fall, I complained terribly that my mother would make me get up at 7am and after a quick breakfast make me walk all the way to school, which was across the street from Miller Park. I wasn’t given a choice. We learn quickly in life the lesson that our daily living must be worked out through thorns and thistles. In Genesis 3:18, God continues his curse on the ground explaining its impact on mankind. It says, “…thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.” Yep, thorns and thistles were necessary even then if I was to eat at my mom’s dinner table.

I’m often reminded of Romans 8:28. I believe it too! “God works all things together for good to those that love the Lord.” All things are not good! Thorns and thistles are not good for us, but they are inevitable in life and often work out for our good. This is the way Spurgeon preached on this passage. He said, “It is, perhaps, the worst thing that can happen to us to be without any kind of trouble. We do not grow in grace very quickly without trial, and we do not then develop the graces of the Spirit as we do when God sends the thorns and thistles to grow up around us.”[1] Then in a later sermon, he says, “Do not fret, therefore, over thorns, but get good out of them. Do not begin stinging yourself with nettles; grip them firmly, and then use them for your soul’s health. Trials and troubles, worries and turmoils, little frets and little disappointments, may all help you if you will.”[2] As useful as this practical advice might be, I find a more poignant understanding regarding the thorns and the thistles.

Just as it was the sin of Adam and Eve that brought the curse of thorns and thistles on the ground, It was our sin that caused Jesus’ suffering at the hands of the soldiers.  The scarlet robe draped over him poignantly reminds us of Isaiah’s words, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”  The curse that was due us, he wore on his head, represented by the crown of thorns.  Thorns and thistles came into the world as part of God’s curse upon the sin of man.  Jesus bore our sins in the scarlet robe; he bore our curse in the crown of thorns.

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. 2009. Teachings of Nature in the Kingdom of Grace. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Spurgeon, C. H. 2009. Teachings of Nature in the Kingdom of Grace. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.