Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

thorns — March 31, 2021


We once had thorny Pyracantha bushes ascending the walls on the front of our home.  The berries were a beautiful bright red, partly due to the blood I left in pruning them.

Why did God give us thorns?  They grab our legs when we hike through the woods.  They draw blood when we weed the garden.  They make the beauty of a rose unapproachable.    What was God thinking when He gave us thorns? 

I guess we should concede that thorns were not a part of His original design.  God created man and woman and placed them in paradise – a perfect, self-managed garden teaming with fruit and vegetables from which they happily dined.   

But Adam and Eve fell from grace by rejecting God’s plan for their lives.  So, God imposed some painful consequences. 

He said to Adam, “Because you obeyed your wife  and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’  the ground is cursed because of you;  in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, but you will eat the grain of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat food   until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken;  for you are dust, and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:17-18 NET Bible®

Adam was made to become a farmer and his nemesis would be thorns and thistles.  God imposed them on Adam and Eve and all of us so that every time we prick our fingers or stab our foot with a thorn, we would think of our sin and its great cost. 

Thorns can get buried in your skin. They also burrowed themselves into the biblical story.    

Moses was chasing his sheep through the Sinai wilderness when he encountered God who appeared to him in a burning bush.  Guess what!  It was also a thorny bush!  Luke wrote this for us in Acts 7:30, “And after forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush.” – NASB

It was from a burning thorn bush that the Lord met Moses and called him to be the leader and liberator of God’s people.  So why did God choose a thorn bush as His platform? 

It was through Moses that God gave the us the law including the Ten Commandments.   This law became a measuring stick to remind us that we fall short of God’s standards.  And that was God’s intention according to Romans 3:20, “through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”  NET Bible ®   

Its kind of crazy.  God imposed the penalty of thorns, and then later appeared amid them as if to say, “Sin is still a big problem.”

Fortunately, thorns continue to creep through the biblical story. 

The prophet Isaiah described Jesus in this way.   “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  Isa 53:6  KJV

The Father laid on Him the cost of sin – the iniquity of us all – which was symbolized by the crown that was laid on His head.

“The soldiers braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they clothed him in a purple robe. They came up to him again and again and said, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly in the face.John 19:2-3 NET Bible®

The Roman soldiers mocked His claim to be King by weaving a clownish crown and forcing it into His head. 

And of course, it was a crown of thorns.   The original Greek word for this thorny wreath is “kanthai,” which seems to be the root word of the Pyrocantha plant that grew on my walls.  Ironic I know!

Those sick soldiers didn’t realize it, but in crowning Christ with thorns, they would shout a Gospel message through the ages to come. 

The curse of the thorns in Genesis 3, was placed on Jesus who removed it by His death on the cross for us, “and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Think on that when you weed your garden this Easter Season. 

A PRAYER: Thank You Lord for bearing our thorns in your flesh.

death where is thy fang — April 8, 2020

death where is thy fang

It was Vacation Bible School.  Our theme for the week was Bible Barnyard.  We took animals that were referenced in the Bible, brought them to the church and then used them as object lessons. 

We cast our pearls before a guest swine who had the manners of a pig.  There was a sheep that strayed by to teach us how to follow our shepherd.  Then there was the snow-white dove that dropped in to remind us to be gentle as we make our way through this world. 

The wolves were already booked elsewhere – a wedding I think – but we did have a serpent make a guest appearance.  It belonged to a member of the church.  He did a great job of teaching us to be shrewd as we interact with our world. 

The kids loved the him. They reached their hands into his glass enclosure and let him thread himself through their fingers.  We became a snake handling church for the day!  He seemed safe enough.

As the session came to an end, the snake’s owner told me that the serpent was due to be fed.  She asked if the kids might like to see it.  I said “Sure.” 

So, she dropped a little grey mouse into the cage.  The kids crowded around.  They connected with the cute little fuzz ball that was skittering about.  They oohed and giggled until – with lightning speed – the snake inhaled the mouse. 

Half the kids were awed by it.  The other half – not so much.  There was a scream explosion.  Not just one kid – at least a half a dozen – and it was catching.  They whimpered and blubbered and sobbed and they were loud. I was ready to line up some grief counselors. 

The cute, fuzzy, innocent, little mouse was swallowed whole by the cold-blooded, villainous reptile. I wanted to cry too.

The drama prompts me to think back to Calvary.  Jesus was not as cute, but many were deeply attached to Him.  He had healed the broken and ambulated the lame.  He brought the sparkle back into blinded eyes and the sound of laughter to empty ears. 

He touched the diseased, welcomed the outcast and courageously defended the downtrodden.  He was admired, esteemed and cherished. 

And then He was abruptly inhaled by death – and all creation screamed. 

The sun was obscured by a sheer veil of darkness.  The earth trembled and shook with sorrow as her rocks shattered.  The cavernous temple was filled with the harsh sound of tearing as the massive partition curtain was rent.  A river of tears flowed down the hill of Calvary from the faithful that were huddled there.

The cross was not the way His story should have ended.  But that’s the way it was – and all creation screamed in protest. 

Unlike our little mouse, however, it was His choice! -a decision that was all about us. 

“Christ also loved us and gave himself for us.”  – Ephesians 5:2

“Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.”  – Ephesians 5:25

“the Son of God…loved me and gave himself for me.” –  Galatians 2:20

Oh, how amazing it would have been, if that little fuzz ball of a mouse could have backed out of the jaws of the serpent.  The bitter would have become better for our distraught kids. 

Jesus, on the other hand, backed out of His tomb – having been truly and fully dead for 3 days.  His glorious resurrection was also all about us.  Paul wrote, “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.”  – Romans 6:4

Do you believe it?  It is important that you do says Paul, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

What does that mean “You will be saved?” It means, little mouse, that the python of death will never be able to swallow the one who belongs to Jesus. 

It is the Easter season – a perfect time to confess Jesus with your mouth and believe in Jesus in your heart.

All biblical references from the NET Bible ®

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