God’s Word for You
Luke 23:8-10 Jesus gave him no answer at all
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, June 5, 2019
8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very pleased. He had been wanting to see him for a long time because he had heard many things about him. He hoped to see some sign performed by him. 9 He questioned him for a long time, but Jesus gave him no answer at all. 10 The chief priests and scribes stood there, vehemently accusing him.
We can say a few things about Herod at this point, but not because we’re interested in him. The real questions that need to be answered are: Did Herod in any way judge Jesus as Pilate did, and, was Jesus breaking the Fourth Commandment by refusing to answer Herod’s questions? The answer to the second question has an impact on how Christians behave in courtrooms and in official proceedings.
Herod Antipas did not greatly distinguish himself as an administrator. His father, Herod the Great, did not want to leave his kingdom to Antipas. We get the impression that almost anyone else would have been preferable, but a couple of deaths moved Antipas higher up the list. Even after his brother Antipater tried to poison their father, Antipas was still not the preferred choice of Herod the Great. After Herod’s death, the succession question had to be taken before Caesar Augustus. Caesar wasn’t impressed by Antipas, either, but let him rule over Galilee and Perea as a “tetrarch,” something like a duke or under-king. These two territories did not touch one another, but can be understood on a rough map if you note Galilee to the north as a large circle, and Perea to the south (and east) as a long loop of land bordering the other side of the Jordan River. The two regions are called to mind if you imagine a lower-case letter q written in cursive so that a loop is formed to the lower right.
Rather than question Jesus about the charges, Herod Antipas just asked Jesus shallow questions that had nothing to do with the trial, hoping that Jesus would perform for him, perhaps even doing a miraculous sign. Jesus’ refusal to answer reflects the Lord’s low opinion of Herod “that fox” (Luke 13:32). Remember that Jesus did answer Pilate when asked questions in his trial (Luke 23:3), but Herod never asked anything to do with the trial.
Notice the reaction of the priests and scribes who were present. They were probably afraid that if Jesus had consented to perform a miracle, Herod might not have given him up (he had kept John the Baptist locked in prison for more than a year, Matthew 4:12, 14:10).
There were two results of this audience before the Tetrarch. The first was that Jesus was sent back to Pilate without any verdict or interference from Herod. The second result we will see in the verses that follow.
If Jesus did not answer Herod, and if Jesus held a low opinion of Herod, can a Christian ‘imitate’ the Lord’s actions and commit thought-rebellion against a leader, elected or otherwise? First, we cannot set aside Romans 13 and Paul’s excellent explanation of the Fourth Commandment. There is no government apart from that which God has established (Romans 13:1). Therefore, anyone who rebels against a government is in rebellion against God (Romans 13:2). Just as there is a punishment for earthly rebellion, there is also punishment for rebellion against God (Romans 13:3-4). This extends even to seemingly minor affairs such as taxes and revenue (Romans 13:6), but also respect and honor (Romans 13:7). When God provides us with a government it is for his own ends, either to bless and to protect us (Ecclesiastes 10:17) or to scourge us and bring us to repentance (2 Kings 12:14; 1 Samuel 8:5-22). Jesus’ refusal to answer Herod was because Herod only wanted him to perform for him. Herod hoped Jesus would turn water into wine, or to do one of Moses’ old miracles before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:4, 4:6-7). Therefore:
1, My opinion of my present government, good or bad, in whatever time I live, must keep in mind the Fourth Commandment and my duty to honor the governing authorities God has given me.
2, My reaction to a wicked government must first and foremost be one of personal repentance, since God permits a wicked government precisely to turn his people back to him in repentance.
Jesus had nothing to repent of, before Herod or anyone else. Jesus’ low opinion of Herod was that of God the Creator for his fallen creation, and it would be most unwise for anyone to attempt to hold up Jesus’ silence as the only reason for his own silence in a court of law. In his 1568 Catechism “A Summary of the Christian Faith,” David Chytraeus warned against many Fourth Commandment sins, including: “disobedience or obstinacy or contempt for superior magistrates and laws, sedition, and the superstitious observance of any laws at all.” What he meant by the last point would involve a detailed study of post-Medieval superstitions.
As Peter told the Galatians (1 Peter 2:17): “Show proper respect to everyone. Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”
Pastor Timothy Smith