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A Recap of ‘The Thorn’—And Why You Should See It

The Thorn
Photo courtesy of The Thorn

Each year, pastors look for new ways to share the Easter message—and for new people to share it with. This spring, more avenues are available thanks to “The Thorn,” a longtime faith-based production that’s branching out into new settings.

More than 25 years ago, John and Sarah Bolin launched “The Thorn” as a live-action show at their Colorado Springs megachurch. This year, the production’s nationwide tour includes stops at 12 mainstream performing-arts venues. A film version of “The Thorn” is also debuting, with showings throughout the United States on March 6 and 7. Both formats provide a creative, moving take on the Gospel message. And both provide opportunities for Christians to share that good news with friends and neighbors.

In an interview with ChurchLeaders, John Bolin describes the unique format and story of “The Thorn.” He also reveals why pastors and congregants should see it—and invite their churched and unchurched friends to join them.

The Gospel Distilled to a Two-Hour Experience

Thanks to a recent uptick in high-quality programming, Christians now have more faith-based viewing options than ever. Some, though, require more of a time commitment than others. For example, the TV hit “The Chosen” is a series with three seasons of shows so far. Because “The Thorn” is a two-hour experience, audience members can be entertained and uplifted in just one sitting.

Unlike many other Passion presentations, “The Thorn” isn’t a musical. In fact, the only person who speaks at all is the narrator, a biblical figure. Most cast members perform using movement, dance, acrobatics, aerial stunts, and martial arts techniques. The trailer reveals a glimpse of the costumes, props, and pyrotechnics that professionals use to convey the story.

So what is the story of “The Thorn”? It comes straight from Scripture, spanning from the Creation in Genesis to the birth of the New Testament Church in Acts. Both the show and movie “tell the Gospel story as clear as can be” despite the absence of dialogue, Bolin says. Non-Christian viewers receive the entire salvation message, from the Fall to Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

According to its official synopsis, “The Thorn” tells “the ultimate story of love, sacrifice, and redemption.” The goal, Bolin adds, is “to let people with no church background hear the Gospel in a crystal-clear way.”

Different performances of “The Thorn” feature different narrators. Most frequently, that role is held by an 80-year-old John the Apostle, speaking from the island of Patmos. Breaking the fourth wall, he tells the story while cast members perform. 

Other narrators include Thomas, the disciple known for doubting; Peter, a type of “everyman Christian”; and Mary Magdalene, who struggles with her identity but finds forgiveness in Jesus. Each narrator recalls a specific type of spiritual battle, with some facing off with Satan. (Note: Because some content is intense and could be frightening for children, the age recommendation for viewing “The Thorn” is 12 and up.)