Jesus’ Trial Before Herod

22 Jul
Herod Antipas - 3

from Google Images

After Jesus’ first appearance before Pilate, the Jewish authorities could hardly believe their ears, when Pilate pronounced his verdict of innocence! Immediately they began to accuse Jesus more passionately. The Vulgate translates: “But,” they insisted, “He rouses sedition among the people; he has gone round the whole of Judaea preaching, beginning in Galilee and ending here.” The phrase: “…ending here” probably has reference to his entries into Jerusalem in recent days, publicly showing himself to be the Messiah and the large crowds gathering around him.

When Pilate heard this, he questioned the Jews further and was informed that Jesus was from Galilee (Luke 23:5-7). Immediately, therefore, he sent Jesus to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

When in Jerusalem, the Herod family stayed in the Palace of the Hasmonians, which had a connecting bridge to the Temple.[1] Herod in Luke 23:7 is Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great. Augustus Caesar had made him tetrarch of Galilee and Perea upon his father’s death in 1 BC. He ruled until 39 AD, which encompassed most of Jesus’ lifetime, and Jesus spent most of his public ministry preaching in his territory. Some scholars believe Pilate wanted to rid himself of the trouble of trying Jesus in his court, but I don’t think this is the case. Although he may have been deferring to Herod’s authority, he had good political reasons for doing so. First, Rome often permitted local authorities to judge those within their jurisdiction. It was the friendly thing to do, which enhanced Rome’s influence. Secondly, Rome didn’t always understand local laws and how they might affect Rome, as is seen elsewhere in Luke’s writings (Acts 25:13-27). Just as Festus sought the advice of Herod Agrippa in Acts, Pilate may have sought the advice of Herod Antipas here. Finally, Pilate saw an opportunity to heal the breach between himself and Herod, which thing Pilate probably regretted (cf. Luke 13:1).

Herod was exceedingly glad to see Jesus (Luke 23:8; cf. Matthew 14:1-2), and had for quite some time wondered about the reports that came to him, concerning the things Jesus said and did. For Herod, however, Jesus was simply a sight to see, an entertainer, a court jester, or a curiosity! Herod Antipas merely wished to see a miracle performed. As far as Herod was concerned, Jesus was nothing more than an ancient Houdini.

Herod interrogated Jesus, but Jesus had no reply, not even a single word (Luke 23:9).The problem is, Herod had silenced the voice crying in the desert (Luke 3:2-6; cf. 9:9) who was sent by God to introduce Jesus (cf. John 1:29, 36-37), and now he wanted Jesus to enlighten him concerning his person and purpose. Nevertheless Jesus was silent (Luke 23:9) as a lamb before the slaughter (cf. Isaiah 53:7; Psalm 38:13-14; Acts 8:32; 1Peter 2:23), and this was Jesus posture throughout his trial (cf. Matthew 26:62-63; 27:12-14).

The chief priests could endure Jesus’ silence for only a short time before they became exasperated. Before long they began to interrupt Herod’s fruitless interrogation with their own accusations (Luke 23:10). Moreover, since Jesus wouldn’t accommodate Herod and become his court jester, Herod began to play the part of the court jester, himself, by mocking Jesus. He placed a royal robe upon him and ridiculed him. Herod, the strong, the powerful with his men of war behind him made light of Jesus, the Messiah, making him appear as a man of no account, of no worth at all—a good-for-nothing!

The sons of Herod the Great were great performers, because they all wanted to please the Jewish authorities and be accepted by them as their legitimate rulers. Antipas’ nephew Herod Agrippa of Acts 12 killed James, the brother of John with the sword, and, when he saw that this pleased the Jewish authorities of Jerusalem, he arrested Peter, intending to do the same to him (cf. Acts 12:1-4). When Antipas understood the Jewish authorities contempt for Jesus, he began to ridicule him.

One might wonder about the source of Luke’s information for the things that occurred in Herod’s palace. No doubt none of the Apostles would have been permitted there, but some disciples had to have been there for Luke to record what he did, even if it’s content isn’t exhaustive. I believe at least two of Jesus disciples were there: Joanna  (cf. Luke 8:3; 24:10), and her husband Chuza (Luke 8:3), whom I believe to be the nobleman of John 4:46-54 and called Manaen in Acts 13:1.[2] Their son was the beloved servant of the centurion in Luke 7:1-10. I believe Luke’s record of Jesus before Herod comes from their testimony to the Apostles and Luke.


[1] Josephus: Antiquities 20.8.11 and Wars 2.16.3

[2] See my studies: Identifying the Centurion’s Servant, and Who Is Luke’s Joanna?

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Posted by on July 22, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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