Jesus Before Herod
( Originally Published 1915 )
HEROD, to whom Jesus had been sent by Pilate, was the ruler of Galilee, the northern part of the land, and of Perea, on the east of the river Jordan. Jesus had lived in Galilee nearly all his life; and lately had been through Perea, preaching, so that Herod had been the ruler over Jesus for years. Herod was not really a king. His title was "Tetrarch," which means, "the ruler of a fourth part of a kingdom"; and he was so called because when his father, Herod the Great, died, he received as his share one-fourth of his father's king-dom. But he was generally called "King Herod," because the people knew that it pleased him to be looked upon as a king, rather than "the quarter of a king." This was the Herod who had caused John the Baptist to be killed, on account of his promise to the young girl who danced at his feast. That shows what sort of a man Herod wasóweak of will, fond of pleasure, and caring very little whether his acts were right or wrong.
Like thousands of other people, high and low, King Herod had come to Jerusalem to take part in the Feast of the Passover; for Herod was a Jew, and kept the Jewish feasts; while Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, was a Roman, and worshipped the idols of Rome. Herod was highly pleased to have Jesus sent to him for trial, partly because Pilate and Herod, rulers of lands next to each other, had not been friendly, and this act, the sending of Jesus for trial, showed that Pilate wished to have Herod as his friend. Also, while Jesus was. living in Capernaum and teaching all through Galilee, Herod had heard much about him. You remember that some time before this, when they told King Herod of the many wonderful works of Jesus, how he made the sick well, gave sight to the blind, and even raised the dead, Herod said, "This must be John the Baptist whom I killed, come to life again."
Although Herod did not live in Jerusalem, but in Galilee, he owned a fine house in that city, called a palace; and in this palace he stayed while in Jerusalem. Into the great hall of this palace Jesus was brought by the soldiers of Pilate; and the high priest Caiaphas came with them, also many of the Jewish priests and rulers, to speak against Jesus. Herod was very glad to see Jesus, the prophet and wonder-worker of whom he had heard so much. He wished to see Jesus work a miracle, and commanded him to do it, for he supposed that Jesus, being in his power,, for life or death, would be very desirous of pleasing him.
But as you know, Jesus never worked his miracles merely for people to look at them. He would make the sick people well or give hearing to the deaf, because he pitied them in their trouble; but when Herod spoke to him, calling upon him to do some wonderful work, Jesus stood still, and would do nothing. Herod asked Jesus many questions, but Jesus would not answer them, and remained silent. The king did not know what to do with such a prisoner, who would not speak a word, even to save his life.
All this time, while Jesus was silent, the priests and the rulers stood around him, charging Jesus with wickedness of all sorts, disobedience to the laws of the land, and trying to make himself a king in Herod's own country. But Jesus answered nothing to all their charges against him.
Herod thought to make sport of Jesus. As they said falsely that Jesus claimed to be "King of the Jews," Herod sent for a splendid mantle, such as kings wore, and had it placed on Jesus. Then they bowed low before him, and called him "king," mocking him as one who pretended to royal power. But in the midst of the crowd of mockers stood Jesus, calm and still, paying no attention and looking as though his thoughts were elsewhere.
Herod knew very well that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death; that he was a good man, and harmless. He would not do what the priests and rulers urged him, over and over again, to do, to command that Jesus should be put to death. So, after holding Jesus up to contempt for some time, he sent him back to Pilate, all dressed as Jesus was in the royal robe.