“When you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God ..” The sibilant whisper filled her ears, and in her mind she saw a crown of glory and wonder, just beyond her grasp. She reached out, took the fruit and ate, only to discover, with horror, that the crown was now further from her than ever. Her world, which had danced with glory, was turned to stone: stony fields, stony, thorny plants, and a heavy rock of pain within her very womb. Tears fell like hailstones, and the only crown was a crown of thorns.
Years passed, and tears passed and her children, and her children’s children, inherited her longing for a crown. They would reach out, from the grim smallness of their mortality and fear, to grasp, with claw-like fingers, at whatever glory or favour they imagined they could make their own. One killed his brother for a moment of God’s favour, others invented new things, or married more women, or sought leadership over other men. Women sought to outshine one another in beauty, or bear more children – anything, anything, to claim the crown as their own. But their crowns were figments of mist and cloud that blew away into nothing at the first whisper of adversity.
Others devised another way. If the way to earn the ultimate crown of God’s favour was too hard, (which it always had to be, since the only way back to God involved allowing Him only to wear the crown), then they would discover other gods whose favour was easier to win. There were gods who would give them power, prestige, protection and plenty in exchange for just a little sacrifice. You could wear the strange crown of a priest, the tinsel crown of a king, the laurel crown of a victor. Not one of these crowns could be carried past the grave, but men sought them and fought for them just the same.
Then there came into the world a man who was not like other men. He had power, he spoke wisdom, and all his ways were love. They offered him a crown and he fled from it. He preached against the ephemeral crowns that men gave their lives for. But in the end he accepted a crown, and it was made of thorns. In mockery they pushed it down upon his head, and while the blood streamed into his eyes, they beat him and jeered at him. Then they nailed him up beneath a notice that sneered at his kingship, unwittingly proclaiming deep truth.
And he will return, in the glory of his kingship and the wonder of his Godhead. And his own, the sons and daughters of God, who walked through the pain of this world by faith and not by sight, and with love overflowing; these same, the pilgrims of the cross, will no longer be despised and rejected, as he once was, but will be called up to share his very throne, and crowned with the crown of righteousness, unfading and imperishable. And then, in wonder love and awe, they will cast their crowns down at his feet. And their joy shall know no measure and no end.