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God’s Word for You

Luke 23:11-12 they treated him with contempt

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, June 6, 2019

In the early second century (about 107 AD), Ignatius of Antioch testified that both Pilate the governor and Herod the tetrarch were responsible for the sufferings of Jesus. He said that Jesus was “truly nailed up in the flesh under Pontius Pilate and the Tetrarch Herod (from this fruit are we, from his divinely blessed passion) so that he might ‘lift up a banner’ forever through the resurrection for his saints and believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, in the one body of his church” (Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans 1:2). He wanted to reassure the suffering Christians of Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-10) that, whatever their physical heritage, Christians have a spiritual heritage. Although Jews and Gentiles were responsible for Jesus’ blood, those who belong to Christ through faith are part of the fellowship of Christ and the Christian Church and no longer of the fellowship of the Jews such as Herod nor the Gentiles such as Pilate.  We belong to the family of Christ through the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and for no other reason.

11 Herod and his retinue treated him with contempt.

The meaning of “retinue” is debated. The Greek term is strateumasin (στρατεύμασιν), which is usually considered to be a subdivision of an army, perhaps without any consideration for their numbers or commander, the way we would say “troops” or “soldiers.” This is the way the word is understood in other places in the New Testament such as Acts 23:10 (“He ordered the troops,” NIV), Matthew 22:7 (“He sent his army and killed those murderers,” EHV), and the heavenly armies of Revelation 9:16 and 19:14,19. Yet here, “troops” or “soldiers” seem out of place, since Herod would hardly have brought anything more than a small armed bodyguard. So the “retinue” who molested Jesus here would probably have been more along the lines of courtiers and young nobles.

They ridiculed him, dressing him in a magnificent robe, and then he sent him back to Pilate. 12 Herod and Pilate became friends with each other on that day. Before this, they had been enemies.

The term lampran (λαμπρὰν) which describes the robe they put on Jesus means “bright” or “shining.” In terms of color, nothing is specified here, but “bright” would probably imply something like white more than anything else. The purple robe we associate with the passion of Jesus was given later when Pilate had him flogged (John 19:1,5). Even yellow would not have been a particularly bright color in those days, since our idea of bright (canary) yellow is a modern color, and yellow in ancient times was a darker shade approaching mustard.

The friendship of Pilate and Herod that began here over Jesus is something we should anticipate will continue to happen as the enemies of the Church join together and forget their other differences in order to pursue the followers of Christ to the death. We don’t need to take the spurious “Letters of Herod and Pilate” seriously in any way. They were written in Syriac in the sixth or seventh century, and have so many details wrong that they would be laughable were they not so frustrating to read. They may have been intended as “pious forgeries,” but they are worthless.

I would rather not speculate about the kind of insults and mockery Jesus received at the hands of a morally bankrupt individual like Herod. It was part of his suffering on our behalf. Herod had no regard for the Sixth or Tenth Commandments, and John had preached repentance to him about those sins after Herod had taken his brother Philip’s wife as his own. He also coveted what was not his own regarding territory, and therefore he publicly violated the Ninth Commandment as well.

To suffer ridicule by such a man was truly degrading and humiliating, but Jesus suffered these things willingly to atone for our many sins, including our sins against the Sixth, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments. He suffered out of love; by grace alone. And he wiped away the guilt of our sin forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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