It must have been an interesting spectacle, to say the least, when the two “kings” met.
Herod was essentially the king of the Jews in the eyes of the Roman government, having been appointed the Tetrarch of Galilee by Caesar. He was at least nominally Jewish, although his lineage as an Idumean made him a child of Esau rather than Jacob, and therefore his ties to Judaism would probably have been superficial at best. He certainly had no use for following the law of Moses – a fact that Jesus’ cousin John learned first-hand when Herod had John killed for condemning the adulterous affair between Herod and the wife of his half-brother, Philip.
Although he seemed to fear Jesus’ teaching and influence enough to want him dead (Luke 13:31), the Bible doesn’t say how seriously he took that effort. But one day he finally had the chance to meet the “other” king in person. I suspect “bloodied and in chains” was how he liked his prophets – unlikely to do a lot of preaching about morality, and maybe in a pliable state of mind to satisfy the curiosity Herod had about Jesus’ alleged ability to perform miracles.
He was apparently not pleased with the outcome of the interview:
When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. Luke 23:8-11
The Jesus he wanted to see
Herod brought Jesus to his court because he wanted a show. Instead he got silence, very likely interpreted as contempt from his prisoner. He didn’t get the Jesus that he was hoping to see. But that happened to a lot of people. And not much has changed in 2,000 years.
The reality is that throughout Jesus’ ministry, people had an idea of what they wanted from him or what they believed him to be long before they ever heard him speak. Some didn’t really even care what he had to say, so long as he fed them (John 6:26). Some had decided he was a troublemaker and an instigator, a threat to what little sovereignty the Jewish nation possessed under Rome (John 11:48). Some went to him and asked questions hoping to be reassured of their own righteousness (Luke 10:29).
But when it came down to actually listening to him speak, they tended to be less interested in applying and understanding than they were arguing and justifying. Have you ever noticed that despite being taught at times only in parables and riddles, the only people who ever seemed to ask Jesus what he meant were his disciples (Mark 4:33-34)? All those people gathered on the hillsides and seashores, and for the most part, they never really seemed to get the message Jesus was trying to deliver.
Are we really listening to Jesus?
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do the things that I say?” he asked in Luke 6:44. The answer was pretty simple. They were healed, they were fed, they heard some really interesting ideas, and then they left. Even the throngs that greeted him in Jerusalem during his triumphal entrance had apparently disappeared by the time he walked the last steps to Calvary. The main reason was that they finally got tired of the message Jesus was delivering (John 6:66), along with his continual refusal to conform to the image of the “savior” they wanted him to be (v. 15).
Every time I read a blogger write how Jesus wants nothing from us but to believe in him… Every time Jesus’ name is invoked to condemn the concept of religion (however that’s defined today)… Every time we stand and sing “Oh How I Love Jesus” and then go on out and live just like everyone else in the world”, we ought to remind ourselves that Jesus came and died on the cross because he loved us. But he also wanted to change us because he knew we were lost and dead in sin without God.
Do we take that seriously enough to listen to everything he has to say? Do we love Jesus enough that we embrace him for all that he is, not just the parts we like or the parts that fit our own theology? The Jesus that preached love and repentance; promised salvation and condemnation; offered rest and hardship?
Or are we like those to whom Jesus said: “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your heart.”
Let’s not conform Jesus to whatever cause or theology or doctrine fits our sensibilities best. Let’s love him enough to listen to his every word for what they are: the Bread of Life.