Every plant that grows and survives in the harsh environment of the desert produces thorns. The cactus is the fittest of those survivors and by brilliant adaptation to the conditions of the desert climate, the cactus clothe themselves in self-protective quills. Attiring themselves in sharp spines prevents them from being trampled and guards against animals stealing their water and eating them as food. Other plants produce stickers that ensure survival of their seed and a new generation of plants. Stickers enable the plants to spread their seed by sticking themselves on the feet and legs of other animals that tread over them. Their ability to stick also enables them to lodge in hard, dry ground and wait for the rainy season. Sometimes, that season doesn’t come for years at a time but the unpleasant nature of a sticker protects it from being eaten by even drought-starved animals and it patiently, waits for the rain. Though every plant in the desert has learned to survive the deadly climate by producing thorns, every plant in the desert is dependent upon the water from above, in the form of rain, to produce new life. Without that rain, the thorniest plant will die and if that rain is withheld for too long, all life perishes and nothing remains but dunes of blowing, shifting sand.
People are much like the cactus. In a world ruled by death, we have adapted best because it is our nature to adapt, survive, thrive, and rule over the natural world. In response to the harsh environment, we toughen ourselves and grow behavioral thorns of protection. This ability is inborn, part of our genetic code, and when used properly, a God-given method for surviving un-survivable conditions. However, people aren’t cactus. We can think and we can feel and our feelings have the power to distort our thinking and our thinking pervert what we feel. We are creative beings who by conscious adaptation to our circumstances develop many methods to survive and also, achieve personal pleasure and satisfaction. The thorns we create can become preferred methods of coping that we employ habitually and even become addicted to. All of the negative characteristics God designed in us to be used in extreme circumstances become the norm, a maladaptive way of life. Protection turns vengeful and poisonous; thorns that no longer protect life but inflict needless pain and death. Without God people turn to themselves for wisdom and find only, sin which bears the sting of death. “Romans 1:29-31 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.” By these sinful thorns, people seek to preserve themselves but instead, inflict pain and death on themselves and others. Everyone who judges their brothers and sisters according to their thorns, produce the very same thorns themselves. Though by them we adapt to survive and thrive in the world created by human beings, we are unable to achieve Eternal life and life sustaining joy because our adaptation to sin is sin and sin produces more death. We naturally, reach for death to overcome death but what we need is life.
Jesus wore our sins as a crown of thorns and carried them to the cross. Jesus lived in the same harsh world that you and I live in but He never produced a single thorn. He relied on God for survival and not on human cunning. Jesus didn’t rely on sin to keep him safe or to achieve the things he desired. Jesus always reached for Life in the face of Death but in obedience bore our sins and died so we could be set free from sin and the death that sin brings. It was the sin of Adam and Eve that altered the life-sustaining world created by God and filled it with death; when they decided to be gods rather than obey the God who made them. It is Jesus, as the Second Adam, who is bringing the rule of Death to an end by sacrificing Himself, dying to sin, and then taking up His life to live again. He conquered death and in the age to come, He will vanquish death and sin will no longer sting. Thorns and stickers have no place in the new world to come.
Jesus is spiritual, life-sustaining water that produces new- life in the thorniest human beings. This water comes first from above and then bubbles up into a perpetual spring of life-sustaining joy in the hearts of those who embrace Jesus by faith. Even though, the world remains in a spiritual drought and thorns remain as a natural part of human defense, those who belong to Jesus don’t need them to survive. It is God who protects us in this dying world and it is God who enables us to survive the world without becoming like it. Though in our flesh, we will still struggle with the sting of both our own sins and the sins of others, Jesus is the antidote that prevents their poison from destroying us. By prayer, confession, and supplication Jesus removes each thorn and gives us His grace to endure those thorns that won’t be removed until we enter the Kingdom. Though in our bodies we bear many afflictions produced by the sting of Death, in our spirits we have eternal life in Jesus. We gain victory over the thorns of sin when in the face of Death we reach for Life!
Romans 4:7-8 “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”