"Herod, the ruler, heard of these goings on and didn't know what to think. There were people saying John had come back from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, still others that some prophet of long ago had shown up. Herod said, 'But I killed John -- took off his head. So who is this that I keep hearing about?' Curious, he looked for a chance to see Him in action." Luke 9:7-9 (The Message).
Who was this "ruler", this Herod who admitted to being the murderer of the prophet John whom Jesus stated to be the greatest of all the prophets?
He was Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, the one who both rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem and was so afraid of a rival that he had all the baby boys in Bethlehem less than two years old put to death after Jesus was born. Herod Antipas was appointed tetrarch of Galilee and Perea and was prominent in the lives of both John and Jesus.
He divorced his Nabatean wife to marry the ex-wife of his brother Philip, and came under the scathing condemnation of John the Baptist for transgressing the marriage law of Leviticus 20:21. "If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity. They will be childless."
At the instigation of his wife, Herodias, Herod imprisoned John and later had him beheaded after a drunken promise to Herodias' daughter who had danced at his birthday party. No doubt his conscience bothered him when that he thought that Jesus was John returned from the dead. At the same time he knew this could not be true because he had been responsible for John's death and had been handed John's head on a platter.
Herod had an insatiable curiosity to see Jesus in action. It was not because he had any desire to follow him but because he was intrigued by the whole idea of a "miracle worker". Probably, like many ancient rulers, he needed some form of entertainment to keep him amused - like the minstrels and jesters of mediaeval times who played for the king.
Herod was a thoroughly secular man. He appeared to have no interest in anything to do with his inner life. He was an opportunist - marrying only for political gain and divorcing when it suited him to make a better match. He was also spineless and very much under the thumb of Herodias, choosing to kill John to satisfy her thirst for revenge because of John's accusation rather than doing the right thing.
During Jesus' trial before Pilate, Pilate heard that Herod was in Jerusalem and sent Jesus to him rather than condemn Him himself, since Jesus was a Galilean and under Herod's jurisdiction. Herod was not interested in Jesus' guilt or innocence. He wanted Him to entertain him with miracles and, when Jesus refused, he abused Him and treated Him with contempt.
Jesus stated that He had come to bring division, even splitting families right down the middle. No one could be left indifferent to Him. It all depended on what was in their hearts. Those who thirsted to know God would recognise His true identity while others would be offended by His claims and His yoke.
It's still the same today. God has promised: "'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV), but there is a condition. "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." Hebrews 11:6 (NIV).
Herod has no desire to know who Jesus was except to satisfy his curiosity and to his dying day he would never know. To the sincere seeker, Jesus is the Son of God, the one to whom had been given the highest name and the highest position in the universe. He is Lord, and to Him every knee shall bow!
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