This is my third time reading Luke on this blog. The first was on the heels of reading the Torah and the Former Prophets. Then, I read it aloud to a small audience. My takeaways from those previous readings were the focus on foreigners and outsiders, and the need for re-readings.
The ultimate foreigner and outsider seemed to loom large in this quicker rereading: King Herod.
Herod is to Luke what “you” is to John, the place of the reader. Herod is the historical viewpoint of the story. Herod is defensive and curious, hopeful, and lied about. Herod is you.
Herod in Salvation History
Luke is dated by Herod. Besides a brief note to Luke’s (perhaps fictional) friend Theophilus, Herod is the first anchor in the text to any historical figure.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
Then Herod (we know from history that the previous Herod is the father of this Herod, but the author leaves that ambiguous) is also the time anchor for the narrative after it resumes 27-some years later:
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
Christ pre-existed Herod, and Christ’s mission is dated from Herod. Because Christ is here for you.
Herod’s reactions to God’s Word
Herod’s reaction to John the baptist is complex, as one of John’s achievements is criticizing Herod for his misdeeds,
But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done
and Herod’s is both imprisoning John and curiosity as to what the criticism means:
[Herod] also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.
The cause of the perplexity – not terror or fear, not amazement or wonderment, nor credulity but incredulity, but perplexity! – is, in an example of delayed exposition, that Herod also killed John! And he thinks Jesus is John!
Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, 8 and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again. Herod said,
“John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?”
So he sought to see Him.
Herod’s reaction to God’s word is a mix of rebellion and curiosity, because that is your reaction.
Herod Aready Knows People Who Knows Jesus
Herod’s role of an employer is specifically referenced as material support for Jesus’s ministry.
Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.
Herod experiences Christ mediated by others, including others he helps. Because that is how you experience Christ.
Herod is target of accusation
We hear only from antagonists of Jesus’ earthly missions, the Pharisees, that the accusation that Herod is hostile. But, it is important to say, we do not know if the Pharisees are accurate.
On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, “Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.”
Herod is accused, as you are accused.
Herod at the Climax
And Herod ultimately….. What?
Herod was “Exceedingly glad” and “treated him with contempt.”
Herod accepted the love of friendship while rejecting Love Himself.
Herod questioned him with many words and received Silence.
When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.
Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, said to them,
“You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him.”
Because of Herod Christ suffered and then rose from the. Let us hope Herod thought again.
Then [Christ] said to them,
“Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Because the ending of Herod’s – and your – relationship with God is not yet known.
By reading Luke, aloud and at a brisk pace, repeated themes and people were more apparent than before. Herod takes the place of the reader, experiencing, rejecting, rebelling, and delighting in Christ. Where this takes him, and you, is not yet known.