15.04.05 Lk. 23:8-12, The palace of Herod; Second Roman Trial
JESUS BEFORE HEROD ANTIPAS
8 Herod was very glad to see Jesus; for a long time he had wanted to see Him because he had heard about Him and was hoping to see some miracle performed by Him. 9 So he kept asking Him questions, but Jesus did not answer him. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing Him. 11 Then Herod, with his soldiers, treated Him with contempt, mocked Him, dressed Him in a brilliant robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. 12 That very day Herod and Pilate became friends. Previously, they had been hostile toward each other.
There was no legal reason for Pilate to send Jesus to Herod Antipas, since Pilate was in the superior government position. He simply did not want to take responsibility for a decision. However, this may have been an attempt to appease Herod, because Pilate was responsible for the Galilean massacre in Jerusalem (Lk. 13:1). Technically, the massacre was an infringement upon Herod’s domain, even though the incident occurred in Jerusalem. Nonetheless, Pilate most certainly was delighted to send Jesus to Herod Antipas, governor of the province of Galilee. This northern area was a traditional problem, for it was the home of the Zealots. Herod was always quick to remove any insurrectionist that appeared and, in Pilate’s thinking, he was well equipped to handle Jesus and any other Jewish problem.
The reputation of Jesus had spread into every corner of the ancient Middle East. Herod Antipas had at one time listened carefully to John the Baptist (Lk. 3:19-20). When the twelve disciples were preaching, He was gravely concerned (Lk. 9:7-9) and even searched for an opportunity to kill Jesus. But friendly Pharisees warned Jesus of imminent danger at which time Jesus referred to him as the “fox” (Lk. 13:31-35). Now Herod had his fourth encounter with Jesus. Evidently, he pretended to have some interest in the ways of God. His life had deteriorated spiritually and morally and his only interest was some form of entertainment, miracles, or sideshow. Jesus, however, did not consent. In fact, the entire courtroom mocked Jesus and, sarcastically, gave Him all appearances of a king. When they were finished with Him, He was sent back to Pilate. However, Herod’s refusal to pronounce a sentence of any kind strongly suggests that he considered Jesus innocent.
But the questions persist. Why did Herod Antipas, who once tried to kill Jesus, now find Him innocent? Was this declaration of innocence truly the result of Herod’s concern for judicial equality, or did some people of his household, who had supported Jesus financially, have an influence on his decision?
- There was Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward who became a follower of Jesus (Lk. 8:3)
- Manaen became a believer and was a member of Herod’s court (Acts 13:1). No doubt, there were others as well.
Since Herod’s decision appears to be out of character, one must suspect that these and other believers, who served in the royal household, demonstrated their influence to find Jesus innocent. He had no interest in justice, but only wanted to be entertained. When that attempt failed, he returned Jesus to Pilate.
“That very day Herod and Pilate became friends. Previously, they had been hostile toward each other.” There are few verses in the Bible that imply political alliances as much as this one. In ancient times, as today, the world of politics can demand strange alliances even among those who despise each other. Such was the case here. For years there had been a peaceful hatred between Pilate and Herod Antipas. However, neither could be vocal about the issue or Rome would have removed the accuser from office. Now, before them was a man whom neither of them found to be guilty. There is no recorded information as to why Pilate and Herod were hostile with each other, but previously there was at least one event initiated by Pilate that might have been the cause.
As has already been stated, scholars have long suspected that the hostilities between the two leaders resulted from a massacre in Jerusalem (Lk. 13:1) after Pilate raided the temple treasury to pay for an aqueduct that was under construction. Justification for this opinion is based, in part, on the fact that in A.D. 36, Pilate was ordered to Rome by Vitellius, the legate of Syria, to defend similar actions concerning a Samaritan rebellion. In that case, he imprisoned and then slaughtered Samaritan rebels. However, by the time he arrived in Rome, Emperor Tiberius had died.
History is inconclusive as to what became of Pilate. Eusebius said that he was exiled and then committed suicide, although another account says he suffered death under Emperor Nero. Regardless, his final hours were not peaceful.
. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament. 9.
. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament. 31.
. More information, including a quotation from Josephus, is found at 09.03.08.
. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History. 2.7.
. See 16.01.06.Q1 concerning the consequences that fell upon those who opposed Jesus.