************ Sermon on Luke 23:8-12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 28, 2004
I Jesus Sent to Herod
A Jesus has already appeared before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate. Now we see Pilate sending Jesus to Herod Antipas. This was an olive branch, a peace offering, on Pilate's part. Pilate was trying to repair the damaged relationship that existed between him and Herod.
It is fair to say that up to this point Pilate and Herod were bitter enemies. There are a number of reasons for the enmity that existed between them. Luke 13 tells us about the time Pilate mingled the blood of Galilean pilgrims with their sacrifices. Since Herod was the tetrarch or governor of Galilee and Perea, this meant that Pilate acted against people belonging to Herod. Also, Philo, an early Jewish interpreter of Scripture, tells us about the incident of the Golden Shields. These shields, bearing the image of Caesar, were brought by Pilate into Jerusalem in flagrant defiance of Jewish law. In response, a protest was made to Pilate by a mob of Jews with four Herodian princes at their head.
Because of this history, we can understand why Pilate was hesitant to spill the blood of Jesus, another Galilean, at a feast without the blessing and input of Herod.
B Herod Antipas is mentioned 13 times in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 3:1; 3:19; 3:20; 8:3; 9:7; 9:9; 13:31; 23:7; 23:7; 23:8; 23:11; 23:12; 23:15) – more times than in the other gospels combined. This tells us that Herod Antipas was important to Luke's telling of the Gospel story.
We need to ask why?
I want you to notice that Herod was joined with Pilate in passing judgment on Jesus. Luke, who also wrote the book of Acts, sees this as a fulfillment of Psalm 2:
(Acts 4:25-26) You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: 'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? (26) The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.'How is this fulfilled? Luke writes:
(Acts 4:27) Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.Jesus said His followers would "be brought before kings and governors" (Lk 21:12). And when Jesus is brought before both Pilate and Herod we see that this happens to Jesus as well.
II Herod was Greatly Pleased
A I said earlier that Herod is mentioned 13 times in Luke's Gospel. Six of those times are centered on three incidents that show Herod to be an unstable character capable of homicidal violence.
The first instance concerned the ministry and prophecy of John the Baptist:
(Lk 3:19-20) But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, (20) Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.Herod, we see here, did not tolerate any criticism of or opposition to his rule. John got locked up – and later killed – because he dared to speak out against Herod's sins.
The second instance concerned Jesus sending out the Twelve to preach in the villages of Galilee:
(Lk 9:7-9) Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed, because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, (8) others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. (9) But Herod said, "I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?" And he tried to see him.Herod was upset by Jesus and Jesus' ministry. He was concerned about Jesus' identity and not one of the three proposals would have set him at ease. He wanted to know if Jesus was a threat to His rule. If Herod did not hesitate to kill John the Baptist, there was no reason to believe he would not do the same with Jesus.
The third instance concerned the time Jesus made His way from Galilee to Jerusalem:
(Lk 13:31-33) At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." (32) He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' (33) In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day--for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!Herod had decided that Jesus was a threat that needed to be eliminated. Jesus, in turn, called him a "fox" – implying that Herod was both sly and destructive. Jesus took the threat seriously because He foretold His own death in Jerusalem.
B Don't forget, too, what happened just a few days earlier. I'm talking about Palm Sunday. Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowd of disciples joyfully praised God for all the miracles they had seen:
(Lk 19:38) "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"Undoubtedly, Herod had heard all about this – how Jesus was acclaimed on Palm Sunday as a King and therefore he viewed Jesus as a threat to his rule.
Now, don't forget that the chief priests and teachers of the law were standing before Herod, vehemently accusing Jesus (vs 10). Presumably, they were saying the same things now that they had earlier said to Pilate:
(Lk 23:2) "We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king."Jesus was called a trouble-maker.
(Lk 23:5) "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here."
Herod, then, had heard about Jesus. Jesus did not appear before him as someone unknown, as someone he had never heard of before. And, nothing that Herod had seen or heard about Jesus would be reassuring to this blood-thirsty ruler.
C Yet, Luke tells us that when Herod saw Jesus, "he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him" (Lk 23:8).
Why was Herod pleased? Why did he want to see Jesus? Luke further explains, "From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle" (Lk 23:8).
Herod was hoping for some sign. But how would he have reacted if a sign were done for him by Jesus? Would he have applauded the miraculous and marvelous and believed in Jesus? Or, would he have brooded about whether such a performer might gain a large and dangerous following? And, would he have worried that the power to do the miraculous might be used against him and his throne? Based upon his history it is clear that Herod's response would not have been awe and faith.
Herod was not the first person to wish for a sign. The crowds asked Jesus for a sign from heaven as a means of testing whether He really was the Son of God and Messiah (Lk 11:16). As the crowds got bigger and bigger and the demand for a sign got louder and louder, Jesus said,"This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah" (Lk 11:29). According to Jesus, a request for the miraculous, for signs, constitute a lack of faith. Herod, like the crowds, doesn't need sign and miracles. They have seen and heard more than enough already (cf Lk 10:24).
D When Jesus did not give Herod a sign, Herod "plied him with many questions" (Lk 23:9). Hundreds of questions. But Jesus gave him no answer. And, He did not answer the vehement accusations of the chief priests and teachers of the law either. To all of this Jesus answered nothing – in startling contrast to all the words of Herod and the Pharisees. The silence was also a major departure from the usual pattern of Jewish and Christian martyrs. Like Stephen before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7) and like Paul before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23) and Felix (Acts 24) and Festus (Acts 25) and Agrippa (Acts 25 & 26), the martyr stood before his questioners and usually made a defiant speech. But Jesus did not give an answer to Herod. Jesus did not give Herod an answer for He had already answered Herod:
(Lk 13:32-33) "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' (33) In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day--for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!"Jesus announced it was His intention to die. And, nothing Herod said or did was going to stop Jesus from accomplishing His work as Mediator and Redeemer.
III Jesus Was Mocked
A Herod asked for a sign and Jesus did nothing. Herod asked hundreds of questions and Jesus said nothing. Herod looked at Jesus and saw only a pathetic, tired, dirty, bruised, and bleeding man. Don't forget, He had been arrested. He had been questioned with hostility by the Sanhedrin. He had been mocked and spit upon and hit and beaten. He had gone more than 24 hours without sleep. By now His clothes were probably dirty and torn. Now that Herod finally saw Jesus for himself Herod realized Jesus was no threat at all.
I want you to notice what happened next: "Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate" (Lk 23:12). Notice, Herod took part in the ridicule and mockery.
When we look at what Luke writes about the suffering and death of Jesus, we see that mocking is a prominent theme. Jesus was mocked in the house of the high priest (Lk 22:63-65). He was mocked by Herod and his soldiers (23:11). He was mocked by the soldiers at the cross (23:36). He was mocked by one of the criminals who hung beside Him (23:39).
"Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate" (Lk 23:12).
What does it mean to ridicule? In the Greek language the word for ridicule means to despise or disdain someone, treat someone with contempt, reject someone with contempt, view someone as being contemptible. We know, for instance, that the Apostle Paul was viewed with contempt by those who found his letters to be weighty and impressive but found his appearance to be unimpressive and his speaking skills to amount to nothing (2 Cor 10:10).
What does it mean to "mock"? In the Greek language the word that is used belongs to a large group of words for the disparagement or low estimation of others in word, attitude, or act. It includes things like contemptuous speech, scorn and insult, ridicule, speaking ill, turning up the nose, shaking the head, whistling, spitting, finding fault, dissecting, backbiting, dragging in the dust, mocking, whispering, ridiculing, disparaging, bantering, making fun, disdaining, deriding.
B "Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate" (Lk 23:12). What does Luke all have in mind here? In mind are the kinds of details that we find in Mark's Gospel:
(Mk 15:17-19) They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. (18) And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!" (19) Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.
Herod had been worried that Jesus was a threat. Now that Jesus was a harmless prisoner, Herod and his soldiers could pretend that Jesus was a rival king. So they dressed Him up like a king. They greeted Him like a king. They bowed before Him like a king. Yet, here was someone bloodied and bruised and tired and worn. There was nothing "kingly" about His appearance.
C "Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate" (Lk 23:12). What is especially amazing is that Jesus was treated this way even though both Pilate and Herod found Him to be innocent of the charges leveled against Him. Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against this man" (Lk 23:4). Herod, too, "found no basis for ... [the] charges against him" (Lk 23:15).
Someone innocent was ridiculed and mocked by one of the highest officials of the land. What an injustice! What cruel mockery! What malicious fun!
D "Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate" (Lk 23:12). Need I remind you that this was part of the pain and suffering of Christ? Don't forget the words of prophecy that predicted Jesus would undergo the agony of mockery:
(Is 50:6) I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.He was mocked. He was ridiculed.
(Ps 22:6-7) But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. (7) All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads ...
We all know why Jesus underwent this, don't we? The pain and suffering, the ridicule and mockery, was part of His work as our Savior and Redeemer and Mediator.
Over and over again in the Gospel story we see that the suffering and pain of Christ brings forgiveness and healing. Even in the midst of His own trials Jesus reached out to heal and to save. We saw that earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane. At that time, if you remember, Jesus healed the ear of the servant who came to arrest Him (Lk 22:51). He reached out again to heal and to save when He comforted the women who followed Him to Golgotha Hill (Lk 23:28-31). Upon the cross He reached out to those around Him when He asked the Father to "forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk 23:34).
The healing mercies of Christ even touched the lives of Herod and Pilate. Did you catch how our passage ends? We are told "That day Herod and Pilate became friends – before this they had been enemies" (Lk 23:12). Jesus provided the grace that healed the enmity between Pilate and Herod. Because of Christ, enemies became friends. Because of Christ, enmity and bitterness was replaced by unity and friendship.
Jesus does the same for you and me. He endured the ridicule and mockery, the pain and suffering, in order to save those who – by grace – repent and believe. Because of Christ, enemies of God become friends. Because of Christ, sinners are saved.
"When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased." Yet, he "ridiculed and mocked him."
Someday, you too will see Jesus. At that time will you be pleased to see Him and will He be pleased to see you? Your answer depends on whether or not you believe.
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