01 March 2018

Jesus confuses Antipas Herod.

Luke 23.4-12

All the gospels tell of Jesus’s suffering, but only in Luke do we find this bit about Jesus being sent to Antipas Herod. The other gospel authors skipped it ’cause it didn’t add anything to their accounts. Doesn’t add much to Luke either. But it’s interesting.

It begins right after Pontius Pilatus, at the time Judea’s Roman prefect, was presented with Jesus for crucifixion. Pilatus didn’t see any reason to crucify him, ’cause as John related, he figured Jesus’s kingdom wasn’t any political threat to Rome. (But it did take over Rome all the same.) So he didn’t feel like crucifying Jesus… and a loose comment the Judeans made, gave Pilatus the idea to hand off the problem to Herod.

Luke 23.4-7 KWL
4 Pilatus told the head priests and the crowd, “I find nothing of guilt in this person.”
5 The crowd prevailed over Pilatus, saying this: “He riles up the people,
teaching throughout Judea—having begun such behavior in the Galilee.”
6 On hearing this, Pilatus asked whether Jesus was Galilean,
7 and realizing Jesus was under Antipas Herod’s authority, sent him to Herod,
Herod himself being in Jerusalem on that day.

Now let’s be clear. There was no rule in the Roman Empire which said if you had the subject of another province under arrest, you had to extradite him to that province’s ruler. No custom either. In fact, knowing Romans, they wouldn’t wanna extradite their prisoners, lest it be considered a sign of weakness. So there were only two possible reasons for Pilatus to send Jesus to Herod:

  1. Passing the buck.
  2. Making nice with Herod.

Because they hated one another, Lk 23.12 and we’re not told why. Possibly because Herod figured he oughta be Judea’s king; possibly because Pilatus treated him less than royal, because Herod’s official title tetra-árhis/“tetrarch” Mt 14.1 doesn’t mean “king,” but “ruler of a fourth,” namely a quarter of Israel. Or maybe it was some other silly reason. Whatever; they didn’t get along. But Herod had always wanted to meet Jesus, Lk 23.8 and if Pilatus knew this, it was a significant gesture on his part. More likely, I’m guessing, Pilatus stumbled into this gesture by a combination of dumb luck and procrastination.

Herod meets Jesus.

So it was Passover, Lk 22.1 and though Antipas Herod was half Edomite and half Samaritan, he figured the Edomite half made him Judean, and figured he oughta make an appearance at the festival. That’s why he was in Jerusalem.

Herod knew of Jesus. Stories about him were getting around the Galilee, and rumor was that Jesus was a resurrected version of John. Lk 9.7 Herod was pretty sure he’d beheaded John, Lk 9.9 so Jesus wasn’t him. But he did want to check Jesus out for himself anyway. Possibly for the same reasons he liked to listen to John: The teachings confused him, but he still liked the guy, and considered him a holy man. Mk 6.17 Maybe Jesus would be much the same.

Instead Jesus turned out a big disappointment.

Luke 23.8-9 KWL
8 Herod rejoiced greatly at seeing Jesus: For a long time he’d wanted to see him,
because he’d heard about him, and hoped to see some miracle performed by him.
9 Herod questioned Jesus on many matters. Jesus never answered him.

I mean, Jesus had nothing to say to him. This was the man who’d killed his prophet and cousin—as a birthday present to his daughter. Jesus knew nothing he said was gonna convict Herod, nor convince him to spare his life; nothing he did would be interpreted as more than stage magic. Engaging with Herod was just gonna prolong the inevitable. Best to keep his mouth shut, wait for Herod to quickly grow frustrated with him, and get sent back to Pilatus.

At least I assume that’s what Jesus was thinking. ’Cause he’s really good at reading people. And ’cause that’s what happened: Herod got annoyed, had a little fun at Jesus’s expense, and sent him away.

Luke 23.10-12 KWL
10 The head priests and scribes were standing there, loudly accusing Jesus.
11 Considering Jesus worthless, mocking him, dressing him in bright clothing,
Herod with his soldiers sent him back to Pilatus.
12 It happened on that day Herod and Pilatus became friends with one another,
for before this, they’d hated one another.

I should bring up the head priests and scribes, ’cause Luke did. Lk 23.10 They had followed Jesus to Herod’s. Why? Because Pilatus might’ve sent Jesus to Herod for a bit of fun, but they wanted to make darned sure Jesus got executed. So if they could poison Herod’s mind against Jesus, or at least keep Herod aware that Jesus wasn’t a plaything but a convict, they could keep their plan from being derailed by powerful men who could casually afford to pardon Jesus.

Thus they were loudly accusing Jesus—reminding Herod of the reason he’d been convicted. Jesus said he was Messiah, the king of Judea, and I needn’t remind you Herod imagined he was the rightful king of Judea. He might have mercy on Jesus as a prophet, but not so much on Jesus as a claimant to his throne. Power corrupts like that.

And if the priests and scribes were lucky, Herod might’ve taken it upon himself to judge and execute Jesus himself. He could have; he was a Roman provincial leader, same as Pilatus. Maybe Pilatus was hoping he would. But in the end Herod decided not to, and back Jesus went to the prefect—with Herod mighty pleased he’d had the experience, even though it didn’t turn out as he wished.

And in this, Jesus had to suffer the abuse and ridicule of Herod and his guards. Who might not have smacked him around like the Judean senate’s guards, nor beat the tar out of him like Pilatus’s guards, but mockery can still make one miserable. Jesus’s suffering on that day varied by degrees, but suffering is still suffering.