Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

~ William Shakespeare

photo by Luis Pedrosa, courtesy of iStockphoto

Trouble from all sides brought despair to King Henry IV. His nobles rebelled. His friends abandoned his cause. One son was a conniving deceiver; another, a partying low-life. His own guilt burdened him further.

His worries aged him. Sleep evaded him, which produced more desperation.

The weary king disdained the vilest of his realm, who though committing heinous deeds could doze in their loathsome beds without remorse. He envied the wet sea-boy nodding off while perched in a crow’s nest amid storm-tossed waves and fierce winds.[1]

  • Why couldn’t his weary soul find such peace?

His crown sealed his fate.

Jonah understood Henry’s dilemma. Though not a king, he found himself tossed into a furious tumult of his own rebellion. Cast overboard. Abandoned to a raging sea. Willing to die. Forsaken even by death.

  • The prophet’s suffering brought him to the desperation of his hopelessness.

And in his misery, he recognized that he wore an uneasy crown … of seaweeds.

  • Even in this minor detail, we see a foreshadowing of Christ’s Passion.

Notice that the prophet bemoaned that the weeds were wrapped around his head – and only his head.[2] This was yet another sign of Jonah.

  • The Romans sought to torture their condemned prisoners by any means possible.

Various methods of torment were available to them, and they used them without impunity.

  • One particular game they played was basalinda (Latin, for king).

In this sadistic persecution, the soldiers chose a poor soul to be their idiot king. They mocked him in every way, including a fake coronation. The soldiers used baskets, vines, and thorns as the crown, depending on what they desired. In Jesus’ case, they employed the latter.

The abusers then weaved the crown in a way that covered the entire head of the victim. The Romans pressed the thorns into place, and they beat the prey with his make-believe scepter (usually a stick, a rod, or a reed). They committed these atrocities many times and in many ways.

  • To mock Jesus in this way was natural for the Romans.

Philo recorded a contemporary incident where they held a mock coronation service of a village idiot to embarrass Herod.[3] When the populace hailed Jesus as the King of the Jews, it sealed His fate with the mercenaries into whose vile hands He had been cast.

Scripture declares that they weaved a thorny crown for Jesus’ head. God’s Word informs us that they struck His head with a rod, beating those spikes into Christ’s scalp.

  • But what they may have done next is surprising…

The Cathedral of Notre Dame houses a relic known as “The Crown of Thorns.” The history of this icon is suspect before AD 1238. We know King Baldwin II gave the artifact to King Louis in that year. The French Monarch built a cathedral to enshrine it. While it’s improbable this was Christ’s crown, the historical object does share some insight into what might have happened to our Savior.

“The Crown of Thorns” is a woven mesh of sea rushes. The Romans often secured the thorny crowns in place by entwining them with plaited sea vines after they had hammered them into their victims’ skulls.

Scripture is quiet on whether this practice occurred with Christ or not. But it does offer an intriguing insight into this potentially being yet another aspect of Jesus fulfilling the sign of Jonah. It most certainly would have made that crown lie uneasy. And that torment would continue until He finally died.

[1] William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 2, Act III, Scene 1, 15-31, in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Vol. 1, edited by W. G. Clark and W. Aldis Wright (New York: Nelson Doubleday, nda).

[2] Jonah 2:5, NKJV.

[3] Philo, In Flaccum VI, 36-40, in The Works of Philo, translated by C. D. Yonge (Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 728.