“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…
“But they were persistent, saying, ‘He disturbs the people, teaching through the whole of Judea — starting in Galilee but even here.’ When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man was Galilean.”
Those Galileans were always stirring up trouble for the Roman leaders. This is something that the Priests knew and likely threw in to poison the well some against Jesus. At the same time, this created a bit of a loophole for Pilate to extract himself from the false trial. Galilee was not under his direct authority, but was ruled by Herod Antipas, the local king who ruled over Galilee and Peraea. Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great (the Herod who sought to kill the baby Jesus) and a Samaritan woman named Malthace. Needless to say that there was no love lost toward this king of Galilee, especially because he was a Roman collaborator, and the shift of authority, Pilate likely thought, would be a nice poke back at these pesky Jewish priests. And, since it was Passover, it so happened that Herod was in Jerusalem … how very convenient.
What I find interesting as I look over these events is how many people were trying to manipulate the outcome. The Jews wanted Jesus to be executed by the Romans. The Romans did not care either way about the man, Jesus, but did not want to become Jewish puppets, and now Herod will be brought into the picture. Yet, in the midst of all of these schemes of men, God is still sovereignly governing these events to a conclusion that he had so ordained from before the foundation of the earth.
We often sing in church that our God is an Awesome God, but I wonder whether we really live it out. We see from history how God has orchestrated even the smallest events and details to bring about his glory and then we worry about things we cannot control in our own lives. Jesus spoke a great deal about our not worrying, but we do anyway. The pagans, whose gods cannot answer them or affect events, have a right to worry. We do not. Trust God and when things seem to fall apart, instead of worrying or wondering “where God went…” ask yourself the question, “what is a sovereign God teaching me in the midst of this crisis?”
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God.