3rd Wednesday of Lent
Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Some people have a tradition of fasting during lent. Really, that’s all it is, a tradition and really doesn’t get a person any closer or further away from God. Fasting can be a humbling experience. It forces a person to not be able to have whatever they want when they want it. In our society with so many modern conveniences it can be easy for us to assume that we should be able to have whatever we want when we want it. It’s when we can’t get something that we want, and fasting will point this out, when we are brought back to reality and realize that we aren’t God and can’t always have whatever it is that we want. The amazing thought we are going to consider this evening is that Jesus, who is God and is entitled to everything for a gracious purpose doesn’t do anything.
Let us consider this man named Herod. Perhaps a little background information is important on who exactly this Herod of our text was. This isn’t the Herod that we came across at the time of Jesus’ birth that Herod was Herod the Great who tried to kill Jesus by having all the boys of Bethlehem put to death. This is Herod’s son Antipas. Sometimes he’s referred to as Herod Antipas. He was given ¼ of his father’s kingdom and that included the region of Galilee which was in the northern part of Israel. He’s described as being kind of a frivolous, whimsical, giddy, pleasure-seeking man. He labeled himself as a Jew in order to win the approval of the Jewish people, but most saw that the way he lived did not measure up to what he called himself. At one point he committed adultery by taking his half-brother’s wife as his own wife. After doing this John the Baptist publicly reprimanded him and pointed out his sin. In response Herod had John put in prison. He liked to listen to John the Baptist for a while and feel bad about himself for a little while and then when he felt he had felt bad enough he’d send John back to prison. Then while he was enjoying a dance by his daughter he promised his daughter anything up to half his kingdom and she, having consulted with her mother, had John beheaded. No doubt later on his conscience started to bug him and especially when he heard about Jesus doing all kinds of miracles and healings and he wondered if Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead.
So Jewish leaders brought Jesus before Pilate in order to get his rubber stamp of approval in order to put Jesus’ to death, but when Pilate starts looking into the matter and finding Jesus doesn’t deserve to die, he’s in a tight spot. So the Jews level their accusations against Jesus and happen to mention “Galilee.” No doubt Pilate’s ears perked up at that. Galilee was not part of his jurisdiction; it was Herod’s, so I’ll send him off to Herod who’s in town for the Passover. At this news Herod was excited. Certainly a prisoner would want to do anything to get out and what better than a couple of choice miracles to get the day rolling. You can imagine the smile on his face welcoming more entertainment. He had no intention to actually see Jesus’ miracles for what they were or least of all listen to some spiritual message from Jesus- he wanted a show! Some fascinating miracle in order to tickle his imagination or excite his curiosity!
Let’s pause right here for a second and think about this. All he wanted from Jesus was a little bit of entertainment. Not much has changed in our world today. Today our world’s focus is not on “What does God want?” but on “What do I want?” For many today all they look for in a church is “how does it make ME feel?” “How can I be entertained?” “How can this church serve ME?” And if the particular church doesn’t live up to selfish expectations it’s on to the next one. And perhaps there’s a selfish entertainment bone in each one of us too. We tend to evaluate things based on how they will benefit us, how something will benefit our status, our ego, make us feel good. Let us repent, let us confess our sinfulness and let us seek to come into God’s presence with holy, humble awe and ready to hear everything that our Lord has to tell us- even when, especially when it’s not what we WANT to hear. Even when God says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, if someone wants your tunic give them your cloak as well, etc.”
The judgment on people who only seem interested in Jesus but really are not, is displayed in Jesus’ actions. He was silent. He didn’t tickle Herod’s fancy or give Herod what he wanted. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). It’s a dreadful judgment on unbelief when God remains silent. There is only one bridge so to speak between humans and God and that is through Jesus. Anyone without a connection to God through Jesus, God refuses to listen to them and punishes them with silence. So Herod has his fun with Jesus and mocks Him and sends him back to Pilate. And isn’t it ironic that in many cases people who don’t agree on anything can agree in their opposition against Jesus? The two became friends.
So what do we learn from this account with Herod of Galilee? All Herod saw in Jesus was a show of entertainment, something to provide some temporary pleasure, and nothing more. In a world of self-seeking pleasures and selfishness Jesus is the exact opposite. Jesus was accused, carted around, pestered with questions, made fun of, and rejected. So where’s the good news in all of this? Think about it: Jesus remained silent. Jesus, who could have called up on legions of angels didn’t, Jesus, who could have snapped his fingers and all lay dead before Him didn’t, Jesus, who could have humiliated Herod, didn’t. Why? Because of you and me. Knowing full well that many rejected Him as Lord and Savior and many would later on, that didn’t deter him from carrying the cross and suffering the full penalty of sins, and drinking the cup of God’s wrath against sins to its very dregs. Simply put, Jesus underwent all of this for you! He underwent this so that your sins would be forgiven in full and completely! He remained silent here so that you might sing God’s praises forever in heaven!