“Look where you’re going!” Heed that warning if you walk along a crescent-shaped stretch of pavement near my home. Hawthorn trees, with low overhanging branches, border the path. In winter, and in early spring, their vicious inch-long spikes aim to poke your eyes out.
Every time I walk past one of those hawthorns, I think of Jesus Christ who had a crown of thorns rammed onto his head after his arrest. I shudder at the agony he went through – not just from the crown of thorns, but in a succession of acts of torture and then a cruel death by crucifixion.
Hawthorn buds, I gather, emerge at the point where the spikes protrude from the twigs. In May the buds burst into flower and in autumn the tree is a profusion of red berries and golden leaves that catch the sunlight of bright October days.
The bloodied head of Jesus and his dead body weren’t the end. Just as the hawthorn spikes give way to buds, so death gave way to new life for Jesus. But at such cost. Agony before glory. Why did he do it? He told his disciples, “The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them.” That’s the message that will be conveyed this week – Holy Week – as Christians remember and reflect his sacrifice for the human race.