Harmony of the Gospels


(32) Jesus Before Herod

Scripture: Luke 23:6-12

Tom Lowe


Date: Friday of Jesus’ Final Week
Place: Jerusalem

Jesus enters into the forth phase of His trial. This time He is interviewed by Herod Antipas, who has wanted to see Jesus for a long time. He had heard the stories, but now He wants to meet the Savior to satisfy his curiosity and perhaps see a miracle. But Jesus never says a word, and that angers Herod and leads to His abuse by Herod’s security force. Jesus is sent back to Pilate, whereupon a friendship is fashioned between these two men based on their common animosity toward Jesus.

6 When Pilate heard of  [TL1]Galilee, he asked whether the man were a  [TL2]Galilaean.
7 And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.

The previous lesson covered verses 1-7, which deals with Christ’s appearance before Pilate. There we learned that when Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews, He answered that He was. Pilate did not interpret His claim to be a threat to the Roman Emperor. After a private interview with Jesus, he turned to the chief priests and to the crowd saying that he could find no fault with Him. The mob became more insistent, accusing Jesus of stirring up disloyalty, beginning in despised Galilee (despised because it was the hotbed of revolution) and eventually going all the way to Jerusalem. When Pilate heard the word Galilee, he thought he had found an escape route for himself. Since Jesus was from Galilee, and since Roman law allows a person to be tried in the province where his crime was said to have been committed (which in this case was anywhere from Galilee all the way to Jerusalem) or in the province to which he belongs, and Jesus was a Galilean, he could be tried by a Galilean court. Galilee was Herod’s (Herod Antipas) jurisdiction, and so, Pilate wanting to avoid any further involvement in this case sent Jesus the Galilean to Herod Antipas, the governor of Galilee. It so happened, that Herod was visiting in Jerusalem at that very time, for the Passover. Was it a coincidence? No! God prearranged it to fulfill the prophesy of David ([1]Ps. 2:2), as mentioned in  [2]Acts 4:26, 27, where the kings of the earth and the rulers set themselves against the Lord and his Anointed. It is expressly said to be fulfilled in Herod and Pontius Pilate.

There was a succession of Herods, who ruled in Palestine. The whole family was wicked; they were comparable to the modern day mafia. Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great, who massacred the infants of Bethlehem. It was Antipas who murdered John the Baptist for condemning his illicit relationship with his brother’s wife. This was the Herod whom Jesus called “that fox” in  [3]Luke 13:32.

8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.

Herod was very glad to have Jesus appear before him, and perhaps even more glad because he was a prisoner. He had heard many things about Him and for a long time had hoped to see some miracle performed by Him. Jesus did most of His miracles in Galilee, where they were the talk of the countryside and had been for a long time. Herod longed to see him, not because he had a liking for him or his doctrine, but purely out of curiosity; and it was only to gratify his curiosity that he hoped to see some miracle done by him, which he could talk about for a long time afterwards. Herod’s interest in Christ was fueled by the fact that Christ reminded him of his late nemesis John the Baptist. Luke 9:7-9 attests to that; “Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him.”

Towards the close of Christ’s ministry, certain Pharisees warned Jesus, “Get out and move on from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” Did the presence of Jesus anywhere within the realm of the tetrarch bother his conscience?

Whatever the answer might be, Jesus is now a prisoner, and is being brought before this same impenitent, restless, inquisitive, superstitious Herod Antipas. The latter is still as wicked as he was before. Though he had been repeatedly warned, there is no evidence of even an inkling of repentance. He simply wants to be entertained by Jesus—he hoped to see Him perform a miracle. The evil king would make the Son of God into a court entertainer.

9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.

He questioned him about many things, but no matter how much Herod questioned the Savior, he received no answer. Perhaps he pumped him concerning things to come, or his curing diseases. But Jesus refused to answer, and He refused to gratify him by doing even one miracle. The poorest beggar that asked for a miracle was never denied; but this proud prince, that asked for a miracle merely for the gratifying of his curiosity, is denied. He could have seen Christ and his wondrous works many times in Galilee, but he chose not to. Now that he wants to see one, Jesus ignores his request, and therefore it could be said, “Now he wants to see a miracle, and shall not; they are hidden from his eyes, because he did not know the day of his visitation.” Herod may have thought that now that Jesus was his prisoner, he could command a miracle, but miracles must not be made cheap.

Jesus performed no miracle and He spoke not a word. It is interesting that in all of Jesus’ various interrogations, Herod was the only one to whom He refused to speak ([4]Matthew 7:6). Herod had promptly rejected the truth when he heard it from John the Baptist; so it would be pointless for Jesus to answer him ([5]Isaiah 53:7). Herod had silenced God’s voice, and there was nothing left for him but divine judgment.

At this point the Jews became more violent in their accusations, but Jesus remained silent.

10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and  [6]vehemently accused him.
11 And Herod with his  [7]men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.

His prosecutors, who were in reality the chief priests, appeared against him before Herod. They stood, and [6]vehemently accused him. They would make Herod believe that Jesus had poisoned Galilee too with his seditious notions.

Herod was probably too scared to condemn Jesus to death. His conscience would not allow him to forget what he had done to another innocent man, John the Baptist. He was filled with haunting superstition, but he was probably too angry with Jesus to acquit Him, for his curiosity had not been satisfied. Jesus had refused to perform any miracle or to answer any of his questions.

Herod was very abusive to him: he, along with his soldiers, his entourage, his officers, and wealthy friends, treated Him as if He was worth nothing. What terrible wickedness! To make nothing of Him who made all things. They laughed at him and called Him a fool. They knew he had made many miracles to help others, and so, why wouldn’t He do something miraculous now to make friends with them? Or, they laughed at him as one that had lost his power, and has become as weak as other men.

Herod, who had been acquainted with John Baptist, and had more knowledge of Christ than Pilate had, was more abusive to Christ than Pilate was; for knowledge without grace makes men more deceitfully wicked. All Herod could do, he thought, was to allow his soldiers to manhandle Jesus, and to mock Him by clothing Him in a gorgeous [8]robe  and sending Him back to Pilate. In a few hours, Pilate’s soldiers would do Him the same indignity; they would put a purple robe on Him and a crown made of thorns on His head.

12 And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at  [9]enmity between themselves.

Previously, Herod and Pilate had been enemies. The reason for this is not stated. Some point to  [10]Luke 13:1, which reports in a very gruesome manner that Pilot had ordered some of Herod’s subjects (Galileans) killed. Whatever the reason was, they had been at [6]enmity between themselves, but now the enmity was changed to friendship. They were both on the same side against the Lord Jesus, and this united them. There is another reason for the restoration of this friendship; Herod was grateful to Pilate for helping him to see Jesus and for honoring him by seeking his council. The fact that Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate without issuing a verdict could be interpreted as, “Since we are not in Galilee, Pilate, you have the authority to act, and I will not interfere. Jesus is your prisoner, not mine. I know you will do the right thing.” It was said by Theophylact: “It is a matter of shame to Christians that while the devil can persuade wicked men to lay aside their enmities in order to do harm, Christians cannot even keep up friendships in order to do good.”


______________________Special Notes________________________

 [TL1]GALILEE [GAL ih lee] (circle or circuit) — a Roman province of Palestine during the time of Jesus. Measuring roughly 80 kilometers (50 miles) north to south and about 58 kilometers (30 miles) east to west, Galilee was the most northerly of the three provinces of Palestine—Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. Covering more than a third of Palestine’s territory, Galilee extended from the base of Mount Hermon in the north to the Carmel and Gilboa ranges in the south. The Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River valley were its western and eastern borders, respectively.
Originally a district in the hill country of Naphtali (2 Kin. 15:29; 1 Chr. 6:76), Galilee was inhabited by a “mixed race” of Jews and heathen. The Canaanites continued to dominate Galilee for many years after Joshua’s invasion (Judg. 1:30–33; 4:2). It was historically known among the Jews as “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Is. 9:1; Matt. 4:15).
Galilee was the boyhood home of Jesus Christ. He was a lad of Nazareth, as it was prophesied: “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:23). Here He attempted to begin His public ministry, but was rejected by His own people (Luke 4:16–30).
All the disciples of Jesus, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, came from Galilee (Matt. 4:18; John 1:43–44; Acts 1:11; 2:7). In Cana of Galilee He performed His first miracle (John 2:11); in fact, most of His 33 great miracles were performed in Galilee. Capernaum in Galilee became the headquarters of His ministry (Matt. 4:13; 9:1). Of His 32 parables, 19 were spoken in Galilee. The first three gospels concern themselves largely with Christ’s Galilean ministry. Most of the events of our Lord’s life and ministry are set against the backdrop of the Galilean hills.
 [TL2]GALILEAN [gal uh LEE un] — a native or inhabitant of GALILEE (Luke 13:1–2; John 4:45). After the Captivity, Galilee was only sparsely resettled by Jews. Jesus (Luke 23:6) and 11 of His disciples were Galileans; only Judas Iscariot came from outside Galilee. Because of their distinctive accent, Galileans were easily recognized when they spoke. Thus, during the trial of Jesus, it was a simple matter for the servant girl to detect Simon Peter as one of Jesus’ disciples. She knew he was a Galilean; his speech betrayed him (Mark 14:70).
The name Galilean was sometimes used as a term of contempt when applied to the disciples of Jesus (Luke 22:59; Acts 2:7). Flavius Claudius Julianus, the Roman emperor (A.D. 361–363), called Christ “the Galilean God” and made a law that all Christians must be called Galileans. He apparently hoped to end the use of the name “Christian.”

 [1](Psalms 2.2) The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
[2](Acts 4:26-27) The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
 [3](Luke 13:32) And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. 

 [4](Matthew 7:6) Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
 [5](Isaiah 53:7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
 [6](vehemently) disrespectfully and boldly.
 [7](men of war) an army, a band of soldiers, bodyguard, guards men. Herod’s security force.
 [8](robe) This was an elegant king’s garment, probably one that Herod was prepared to discard.
 [9](enmity) hostility, hate, antagonism, hatred, ill will, animosity, resentment
 [10](Luke 13:1) There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

Do you have any questions or comments?

 A visual reminder for the source of true peace is on regular display along New York City’s Fifth Avenue. At the entrance of the RCA building is a large statue of Atlas struggling to keep the world on his shoulders. On the other side of Fifth Avenue is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Behind the high altar of this church is a small statue of Jesus effortlessly holding the whole world in one hand. Peace is hard to come by when we strive to balance the world on our own back, but when we heed God’s invitation to give him our concerns (1 Peter 5:7), the weight of our world becomes an effortless lift for the Prince of Peace.

Houston Chronicle, July 6, 2000, p. 15A

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