The passage can be read here.
We are in the throes of a General Election campaign in the UK and we are having so much fun – not. Our political system favours the larger parties so historically it’s been a straight fight between the two biggest – Labour and the Conservatives. Election nights used to governed by the Swingometer, if one party’s share was down by say 5% on the previous election and those votes transferred to the other it would mean a 5% swing and if that was consistent across the country the result could be forecast fairly accurately. These days it seems we have multiparty politics so swings are much harder to read. I saw a forecast from the current poles on BBC Newsnight this week which suggested no party with an overall majority and if the two big parties attracted the smaller parties which would seem to be their natural allies to try and form a government – there would be a tie of 319 seats each! Joy of joys! This news will not be a surprise to the politicians of course and they will inevitably be thinking about potential deals with other parties in order to gain the most influence.
In the time of Jesus there was tension between the Romans, for whom Pilate was the governor, the Jewish leaders, led chiefly by Caiaphas the high priest and Herod Antipas, the king. These groups didn’t like each other but strangely, they managed to work together and make a deal.
Pilate clearly did not want to be drawn in to dealing with the problem of Jesus. He had already stated that he saw no basis for a charge against him so at the mention of Galilee, he saw his opportunity, to pass him on to Herod. Some of us go through life like Pilate – we don’t deal with things, we pass them on to someone else.
As we look at the life of Jesus, one of the striking things is that he seemed to be able to talk to anyone. He spoke to lepers, prostitutes, and tax collectors. All of whom would be ignored by polite society. He spoke to Caiaphas and Pilate but he would not speak to Herod. It begs the question, why not? The honest answer is that we do not know but I can think of two obvious reasons why Jesus said nothing.
First, Jesus was not about to entertain Herod. In the Old Testament there are many chapters of instructions on the specifications of the tabernacle and its furnishings, and the way sacrifices were to be offered. The instruction that is made many times is to make things according to the pattern. This shows us that when we approach God, we do so, on his terms – in the way he has prescribed. In the New Testament we learn that the old covenant’s purpose was to point us to Jesus so now we approach God through Jesus. There are those who think we can come to God on our terms, in any way we see fit, all religions are the same anyway. No, we come to God through repentance and faith in Christ. Jesus would respond to a blind beggar crying out for help but he wasn’t prepared to perform a miracle to entertain Herod.
The second reason is that Jesus knew the hearts of all people so he knew that Herod’s heart was closed (5:22). There had been a time when Herod had been interested in the things of God, he knew John was ‘righteous and holy’ (Mark 6:20) and had spent time listening to him. But when driven by lust he’d had to choose between satisfying his own pride and killing an innocent man of God – he had ordered the murder of John. He had hardened his own heart. In verse 11 we see Herod’s mind set, having failed to get Jesus to entertain him, he with the help of his soldiers dressed Jesus in an elegant robe and mocked him. It’s a frightening thought that Jesus had nothing to say to Herod.
Pilate and Herod, the former enemies, became friends that day and I suppose relationships with the Jewish leaders were greatly improved, it made sense. They were an interesting mix, the high priest, the king and the ruler. Yet standing there, the object of ridicule, was Jesus; the Great High Priest, the King of kings and the Lord of lords and he was about to give his life for us.
“This is Jesus in His glory
King of Heaven dying for me
It is finished, He has done it
Death is beaten, Heaven beckons me” (Tim Hughes)