Lent: Herod

Men here have short attention spans.
They see something sparkly and they're off.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

closed eyes, odilon raedon

Closed eyes, Odilon Redon

For a long time Herod had wanted to see Jesus and was very happy because he finally had this chance. He had heard many things about Jesus and hoped to see him work a miracle. Herod asked him a lot of questions, but Jesus did not answer. Then the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses stood up and accused him of all kinds of bad things. Herod and his soldiers made fun of Jesus and insulted him. They put a fine robe on him and sent him back to Pilate.  That same day Herod and Pilate became friends, even though they had been enemies before this. Luke 23:8-12

Eyes wide open?

This Herod (‘the tetrarch’ or Antipas), is one of the clutch of sons born to Herod the Great.  The father was given the title ‘king of the Jews’ by the Romans, deceived the Magi and ordered the slaughter of Bethlehem’s infants.  His death signals the return from Egypt of Mary and Joseph (Matthew 2).  Antipas it was who was denounced by John the Baptist for his marital misdealings yet who also loved to hear him, ‘Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him’  His wide eyes are open.  Finally through the seduction of a single dance he has John beheaded, on a whim, a man whom he liked.  On hearing the news we read that Jesus ‘withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place’.  

The pattern is repeated here.  How quickly personal interest and fascination is allowed to be swatted away. The seed falls on rocky ground.  Herod, were you one who was ever hearing but never understanding; ever seeing but never perceiving?  Then the chief priest stands up and away we slide. A new an unforeseen alliance forms, sweeping away the vestiges of a spiritual hunger.  Herod, are you Pharoah, who closed his heart to this Moses? 

The eager and scrupulous Antipas gets his chance to hear Jesus for himself, he’s wondered whether this is John come alive again.  Oh, a sparkly thing.  What a mix is this man!  He is a walking parable – the sower, the builder on sand and rock, etc.  He asks Jesus a lot of questions.  Jesus replies to none of them, a harsh and cold response?  He has already referred to Antipas as ‘that fox’. Does Jesus see into Antipas’s , his motivation?  It was said of Jesus that he ‘knew what was in their hearts, and he would not let them have power over him. No one had to tell him what people were like. He already knew.’ (Matthew 2:24).  Herod insults Jesus and refuses him.  He closes his eyes.

The stirred heart as leader

Was Herod on an inner journey?  Did he follow the inner thread, or value it?  There was something to follow, a stirring and an curiosity that drew him.  Is the heart often marginalised?  Is instinct and the drawing of the soul to be a profound leader in our time?  What do we follow? 

How seriously do I take the stirring in my heart?  How much does that/might that then inform my outer journey, my actions, my decisions, my speech?  Richard Rohr says that the inner journey sustains the outer journey.  Maybe we can say more, that it directs it one way or another, like the tongue or the rudder of a boat. Jesus said ‘What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness.’ 

The heart then is to be heard and not marginalised, the inner journey has outer consequences.