Friendship with the World

“And there grew a brotherly love for each other between Pilate and Herod on that day. Prior to then, they had enmity toward one another.”

(Luke 23:12)

 

Friendship probably is not adequate here. History has shown that oftentimes politics makes for strange bedfellows, and indeed, there are few stranger than this. The Galileans, over whom Herod ruled, were known as a rambunctious and wild bunch not suited to civilized society. Herod himself was a kind of Roman “wannabe,” always courting his Roman friends and building great edifices in the Roman style, but he was yet of the Jewish people and not to be fully trusted. He was also known for his crass immorality, something not new to Rome, but on the other hand, immorality always seems worse when someone else is practicing it. Pilate was a Roman overseeing Judea — the heart of Jewish authority and culture. Here was the temple and the place of sacrifice for the people. The Sadducees also made their home here, though there was always a sense of contention between the Roman and the Temple authorities.

Some point to the “enmity” that Luke comments on as reflecting back to the gruesome way that Pilate had executed some Galileans, mingling their blood with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1), but this event was relatively minor in the grand scheme of politics and seems odd to cause “enmity” between these two men, especially in light of Herod’s willingness to execute his own (John the Baptist, for example). It is probably better understood in the context of the resentment that these men felt toward each other. Herod resenting the privilege of the Roman Pilate to rule Jerusalem while he got stuck ruling over people in the “back woods” of Galilee. And Pilate resenting the fact that Herod allowed his people to be such trouble-makers while also seeking to court Caesar’s favor.

Yet, here the enmity ceases and becomes a sort of brotherly affection, though affection also is probably not adequate. Here, there is a mutual enemy, and to quote a Russian proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The Rabbis have a similar proverb: “When the cat and the weasel marry together, misery becomes increased.” The real question is, “for whom will the misery be increased?” In other words, is the “mutual enemy” Christ or the Temple officials? Christ is certainly no threat to either man. Pilate recognizes Jesus to be innocent of the charges of the Priests and Herod is just disenchanted given that the great miracle worker will perform no signs for him.

While our Lord will suffer the actions of these earthly political powers, it seems almost as if the mutual enemy is the priestly class that rules the temple. One almost can picture Herod saying to Pilate, “How may we frustrate them further.” Evil here has no bounds.

One commentator argued that the wicked are unable to feel love or friendship. I would disagree, but would say that the kind of love and friendship that the wicked feel is wholly different than the love and friendship felt amongst genuine believers in Jesus Christ. The friendship of the wicked is self-serving and arrogant while the love of believers is holy, pure, and seeks the good of the other. The sad thing is that Christians often choose the love of the worldly wicked over the love of brotherhood in Christ. The former is easier and the latter can be costly, but the former is quite short-lived and is shallow in the end. The latter is eternal and is as deep as the oceans are wide. Which, beloved, will you choose? Which will you pursue? Friendship with this world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Something to think about…

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