The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Jesus is the new enemy. A common target for their frustration. A common experience for them to share. Common ground for them to meet on. Anger can unite just as easily as it can divide. All that is needed is a mutual scapegoat. They both would rather not deal with him—passing him back and forth like a bomb that is about to explode. They both know what it is to bear the burden of public office and have to run cost benefit analyses that will keep the most people happy. Kill one man and this angry mob will be sated? Pretty tempting, especially when this man will say noting in his own defense. Guilty? Innocent? Those words mean nothing when it comes to keeping order. And order is what we need. It suits us both. We are the deciders. And we must decide which evils we can live with and which ones will make our lives too difficult. Nice to have a friend who understands. It’s hard work playing the villain. Lonely work. Heavy lies the head that wears the crown. If only they knew the power of leadership through sacrifice; through doing the right thing even if it was the unpopular thing. For that is how Jesus would lead us, and onward to a power far greater than any office in this world.
10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate.
By-standers can help or hurt or do nothing. That is the power they hold in their hands. We are often the witnesses to injustice and choose either to let it continue, or, regrettably, to fan the flame of hatred. How often do we help? Here, they fling accusations like stones and it draws Herod and his crew into this orgy of hatred. An angry mob is highly contagious. How quickly our curiosity can turn to contempt when we don’t get what we want. Contempt for not bending to our will. How quickly we reject those who do not give us what we feel we deserve. What began as questions turns to mockery when not answered to our liking. Adorned in a fine robe, heavy with sarcasm and vicious irony. Humiliation is the goal now. Humiliate him and hand him over. The by-standers are where the real power lies. Had they been set on saving him, they could have. But they were not. They wanted him dead. And they are the ones who get their way.
Image: “Christ before King Herod (scene 14)” by 13th century Italian painter, Duccio Buoninsegna.
8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus* gave him no answer.
Herod did you know? Did you know that this man was the one your father wiped out a generation trying to kill? Was the story of the prophecy and the wise men who gave your father the slip recounted over and over as your grew up? Or was it never mentioned again; all those innocents slaughtered (Matthew 2), and never given another thought? Did you know that this meeting was thirty-some-odd years in the making? The sins of the father here to be finished by the sins of the son. Is that why you were so eager to meet him? Did you know all this Herod? Did you inherit your hatred? Did your family line destine you for violence against this silent man? Or is your desire to kill him (Luke 13:31) born afresh in you? What is it in this silent prophet you all find so threatening and so fascinating? Are you so insecure in your power that you must eliminate any and all opposition? Are you, like your father, so cowardly that you stand by and let others carry out the deed you want done? So many questions, but you give us no answers.