The Path of Least Resistance
“Finding out that he was under Herod’s authority, he sent him to Herod — who was himself in Jerusalem on that day.”
We have already alluded to this transition, but it should be noted that Luke, always interested in grounding his Gospel in historical events and names recognized by the Roman people, is the only Gospel writer to include the trial by Herod. This Herod, of course, was the Son of Herod the Great, not the same Herod found in Matthew’s birth account. After the death of Herod (around 4 BC), the Roman Caesar broke up the kingdom of Israel into four portions to better control these otherwise stubborn and rebellious people. This Herod, also known as Antipas, became the “Tetrarch” of Galilee and Perea (a region just east of the Jordan River). Antipas is a shortened form of the Greek, ÔAnti/patroß (Antipatros), meaning “like the father.” And while this Herod may not have been as paranoid as his father was, he certainly was as immoral and allied himself closely with Rome as that suited his political ambitions. Yet, because Jesus grew up in Nazareth in the region of Galilee, he was officially under Herod’s jurisdiction, and this provided Pilate a convenient excuse to shift the burden of Jesus’ sentence upon someone else. Conveniently, Herod was in Jerusalem as well — it was Passover, so anybody that was anybody was in town on that day.
The transfer would simply be a means by which Pilate bought time from having to deal with Jesus’ fate, but I wonder how often we fall into a similar pattern of passing the buck when there are things before us that we just don’t want to weigh in on. That is a practice that we never find Jesus engaging in, though, and that ought to cause us pause. Indeed, as Christians, we are called to act wisely and to pursue justice as well as taking the difficult path — the easy path will only ever lead to destruction — how different that worldview is than the dominant worldview today which advocates taking the road with the least resistance. Interesting…