While the Apostles were going through at least part of the region of Galilee, and perhaps Peraea, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and doing miracles of healing and casting out demons, they caused quite a commotion. Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of that region, received reports concerning what occurred. If Jesus was unknown to Herod prior to the Apostles’ expedition, he certainly became aware of Jesus at this time, due to the fuss that was raised by the people in his jurisdiction, as that commotion pertained to the Apostles’ ministry among them (Luke 9:7). This is the same Herod who beheaded John the Baptist, and it is also he to whom Jesus was sent by Pilate on the day Jesus was crucified (Luke 22:6-7).
Like most governments that respond to the Gospel, Herod had a problem; he wasn’t able to obtain accurate knowledge about Jesus, and he knew it. All he was able to learn about Jesus came through rumors of him. Some people were saying Jesus was a prophet, even that he might be Elijah raised from the dead. Some even claimed Jesus was the resurrected John the Baptist, whom Herod had just recently beheaded (Luke 9:7-8). Herod was quite bewildered over these claims about Jesus, and he wanted to see him (Luke 9:7, 9).
We need to keep in mind that John the Baptist had been preaching about the coming of the Messiah, and Herod had to have known that, so his desire to see Jesus, given the Herod family’s paranoia over rivalry for their throne, should not be taken lightly. This is especially true, knowing that the coming of the Messiah was nearly totally misunderstood by the Jewish community who, no doubt, were educated by the misguided Pharisees and Sadducees (cf. Matthew 16:6-12). Herod could not have had a different understanding of the coming of the Messiah than what the people were taught, so he would have understood any Messianic claims as a threat to his government. Certainly, the Scriptures show us that Jesus took Herod’s concern over him very seriously.
When the Apostles returned to Jesus, they told him everything they had done and what they had taught the people (Luke 9:10; Mark 6:30). However, according to Matthew, about the time the Apostles returned from their preaching and healing mission, some of John’s disciples also came to Jesus and told him that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist (Matthew 14:10-13; cf. Luke 9:10). The inside knowledge that Luke shows Jesus having about Herod’s desire to see him probably came from Chuza or his wife, Joanna (cf. Luke 8:3). Chuza, according to a previous study of mine, is the nobleman, whose son Jesus healed (John 4:46-50). Therefore, if Jesus were in danger from Herod, no doubt Chuza would have seen to it that Jesus was aware of such a threat to his freedom or person.
That Jesus took Herod’s threat seriously is seen in the fact that, upon hearing the news about John’s death, and knowing the disciples needed a rest from their labors in preaching and healing, Jesus took them to a lonely, uncultivated region near Bethsaida, which sat on the east side of the Jordan River and on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 9:10; cf. Mark 6:31-32). This was a region in the territory governed by Herod Philip. In other words, when Jesus heard that John was dead, and Herod Antipas may now be looking for him, Jesus left Galilee for Gaulanitis, just out of the reach of Antipas.
It is important to realize that as world leaders reacted to Jesus, Jesus reacted accordingly to them in an effort to keep them from gaining control over or destroying his own ministry. Jesus remained in control of his destiny, only because he was aware of the surrounding political and religious currents and responded wisely. Otherwise, his life would have been unnecessarily placed in danger before his work was complete, and he might not have been able to control the course of those events short of a miracle. Therefore, not desiring to use the powers of deity, Jesus retreated from Galilee to Gaulanitis, which represented a different governmental jurisdiction.