Let's open our Bibles then to the 9th chapter of Luke. Before us in this brief text is an incredibly fascinating drama. The Word of God is filled and packed with so much that can instruct us and inform us, and sometimes huge categories of truth emerge from very, very small paragraphs. This is the case in Luke 9 verses 7 through 9, just three verses. Listen to them.
"Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening and he was greatly perplexed because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead and by some that Elijah had appeared and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again. And Herod said, 'I myself had John beheaded, but who is this man about whom I hear such things?' And he kept trying to see Him."
Herod's question is without argument the most important question ever asked or answered. There is no greater question than the question, "Who is this man?" And there is no more important answer than the right answer to that question.
We can't forget some months ago when ABC television did a special. Peter Jennings went on a search for the real Jesus. I suppose in a different medium but much like Albert Schweitzer's search for the historical Jesus decades ago. Ostensibly this was an effort to find out who this man is. Unfortunately he asked people who didn't know. They didn't know Jesus and they didn't know who He was. So certainly he never found the real Jesus, was unable to answer the question that Herod asked, "Who is this man?" And in the typical smug, post-modern mentality of television, he was content with the search, even though it yielded no answer. And he offered it to America as a substantial way to deal with Jesus: Just ask the question, don't expect the answer.
That is tragically sad for him, for Peter Jennings, for ABC, for everybody involved, for all the people who sat and watched and checked out on ever having a right answer to the question. It's tragically sad for all the people in the world who don't know the answer to that question because it affects their eternal destiny. On the answer to the question, “Who is this man?” hinges everyone's eternity, whether it will be spent in heaven or hell.
Being confused about who Jesus is, is not new. In fact, in the text I just read you, we meet a first-century Peter Jennings, a man named Herod who asked the right question: Who is this man? Now that question is an important question to Luke. In fact, as you flow through the gospel of Luke, it's very apparent that he is endeavoring to answer that question. Let me show you what I mean.
Go back to chapter 5, for a moment. By the way, before we come to this verse, I would remind you that the demons knew who He was. They continually confessed that He was the Holy One of God, the Son of God. It was the people who seemed unwilling to draw the obvious conclusions. But Luke makes much out of their questioning. In verse 21 of chapter 5, the scribes and the Pharisees, they began to reason saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies,” by their judgment “who forgives sins?"
Over in chapter 7 and verse 20, it was actually the disciples of John the Baptist. The disciples of John the Baptist are approaching Christ through His disciples and they ask, "Are You the expected one, or do we look for someone else?" And the question is repeated from verse...in verse 19 and 20. Who are You? Who is this man?
In chapter 7 again, toward the end of the chapter, Jesus attended a dinner, a very important occasion held by a very important man by the name of Simon, who was a Pharisee. And the question comes in verse 49, "From those reclining at the table at the dinner who said to themselves, 'Who is this man?'"
Over in chapter 8 verse 25 it's the disciples this time. They are fearful and amazed and they say to one another, "Who then is this? He commands the winds. He commands the water. Who is this?"
We find in chapter 9 where we are, down in verse 18, Jesus Himself asks the question, "Who do the multitudes say that I am?" And then in verse 20 He said to them, that is the twelve, "But who do you say that I am?"
Are you getting the picture? This is the compelling question in the gospel of Luke: Who is this? It is not just the compelling question in Luke; it's also the compelling question in Matthew, Mark and John. If you jump ahead to the 20th chapter of Luke's gospel, Jesus teaching in the temple, preaching the gospel, the chief priests, scribes, elders confront Him and they say, "Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?" Who are You and where did You get the authority to do this?
Chapter 22 verse 67, right down toward the end of the chapter, the question this time again comes from chief priests, scribes, the Sanhedrin of Israel, "If You are the Christ, tell us." Which is another way to say, "Who are You? Are You the Christ?" But He said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe."
Finally, verse 70: "They all said, 'Are You the Son of God?'" That was the only possible conclusion from His words and His works. And here the question is finally and explicitly and directly answered, "And He said to them, 'Yes, I am.'" It wasn't such a hard answer to find, was it? "Yes I am."
Oh by the way, there was one more inquirer about this in the 23rd chapter, from outside Israel, really. The pagan governor, Pilate, who in chapter 23 and verse 3 asked Jesus, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?" And He answered him and said, "It is as you say." Pilate asked the question, "Who are You?" The scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees and elders asked the question, "Who is this man?" The people asked it, the disciples asked it, "Who is this?" That is the compelling question. And He answered it. "Are You the Son of God? Yes, I am."
All four gospels were written to answer that question. If you want to find the real Jesus, read Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. You'll find Him because John at the end of His gospel, which is the last of the four, sums up the purpose for all four gospels with these words, John 20:31, "But these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the God, and that believing you may have life in His name." That's the whole point. He is the Son of God, the Messiah. And if you believe in Him, you will receive eternal life.
Who is this man? Thomas answered that question, "My Lord and my God." The centurion who was watching Jesus being crucified, after the death of Jesus and what he had seen, said, "Truly this was the Son of God." And to the inquisitive Philip, Jesus said, "If you've seen Me you've seen God the Father."
So that's the question of the gospels. It's the question posed all the way through. It's the question answered all the way through. If one wants to know the real Jesus, read the gospels. The inquirer in our text... Let's go back to Luke chapter 9, is a man named Herod, Herod the tetrarch. We're going to meet him in a moment, but let's sort of set the stage.
If you go back to verse 1 and back to last week in your mind, we looked at this particular passage where Jesus called the twelve together. They had already been identified to be His messengers, His preachers, His sent ones. But now it was time for Him to call them together and send them out for the first time. So He gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases and Matthew adds, to raise the dead. That is, He gave them His power to do all the miracles that He had done, power over demons, power over disease, power over death. Then He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, to preach the gospel and to perform healing.
Now remember the scenario. Jesus is come to the end of His Galilean ministry. He's about half-way through the three-year ministry, a little past eighteen months, a little less than eighteen months until He'll be crucified. But He's not going to spend much more time in Galilee. Very soon after this He's going to head west and north up to Tyre and Sidon and then He's going to swing back across the north end of the Sea of Galilee to Decapolis to the east and move south down to Jerusalem. So Galilee doesn't have much more time. Not a big area, 50 miles by twenty-five miles at the most. Josephus says, "Very densely populated area with as many as 204 towns and villages in that area, lots of people there." Jesus knows the time is limited, weeks, months at the very, very most, before Galilee will no longer hear from Him. He'll be gone and so He wants to give one final, gracious blitz with the gospel to that region. Up to this point, He's been the only preacher. That's because John the Baptist, who also preached repentance and preached the kingdom, has been put in prison by this very Herod. He no longer can preach. He's locked up. And, in fact, by the occasion of this text, John is dead. Up to this point there's been only one preacher, that's Jesus. If you wanted to hear the gospel, you heard Him or you didn't hear it. But in one final flurry to get the gospel across Galilee, Jesus sends out the twelve, gives them the message that He preached, said, "Preach that same message." Gives them the power to validate that message as from God because of the miracles, so He delegates His miracle power to them through the power of the Holy Spirit so that they can do exactly what He did, raise dead people, heal diseased people and cast out demons. And so He multiplies Himself by twelve and sends them out two by two to blitz Galilee in one final evangelistic enterprise.
And they did it. Verse 6 says, "Departing, they began going about among the villages preaching the gospel and healing everywhere." Down in verse 10 it talks about the fact that they returned and gave an account. all that they had done. They went out and cast out demons. They went out and healed diseases. They raised dead people. Only to validate and authenticate the message that they were preaching, which was the message of the forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in God's Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now we don't have the details of their mission. But we have this one anecdote about this man Herod and sort of through his eyes we get Galilee's response, as if his response is somewhat typical of the way Galilee responded. Because in the little three verses about him, we get the idea of what was surfacing in Galilee, and what was surfacing was not He's the Son of God, He's the Messiah. What was surfacing was He's John the Baptist, He's one of the prophets, He's Elijah. Wrong. Even after all of this, their hearts were so obstinate, their minds were so dull, they were so blinded by sin and Satan and unbelief and willful rejection that they couldn't discern the obvious. They were having their own little search for the real Jesus, and there He was. And they didn't have to read the record of what He did and what He said in a...in a text or a scripture. They could see it and experience it and still come up with the wrong answers. It's a sad reality that even after the blitz of the twelve plus Jesus they still were wondering: Who is this man? But the buzz was greater than ever because there were now thirteen preachers. And God's kingdom was being preached and forgiveness. And there was the forgiveness of sin that raised some of their questions: Who can do that? And so the buzz was greater than it ever had been. And the buzz comes to Herod. Herod gets caught up in this thing because he's already been caught up in it. Way back in chapter 4 verse 14 it says that the news about Jesus went through all that region and believe me, it got to Herod who ruled that region.
But it struck me as I was reading this that the question that Herod asks is interesting. He says, "Who is this man about whom I hear such things?" He didn't say, "Who are these men?" That's notable. Who is this man? Why didn't he ask, "Who are these men?" They had the same power. They preached the same message.
Well, the answer to that question is, this is good proof that the disciples gave all the credit, both for the message and the miracles, to the one who had delegated His power and authority to them. The people were focused on who is this man? These were just twelve Galileans. More than half of them may well have been fishermen. They were tradesmen, they were craftsmen. They were common. They were ordinary, very ordinary men, uneducated, not out of the religious establishment whatsoever. They were Galileans. They were known to many of the people they preached to. They were known to many of the people before whom they did miracles. And everybody knew that they were just plain guys from Galilee and never up to this point had had the power to do this, nor did they have the message. So it all went back to Jesus. Everyone knew the power and the message had been delegated by Him to them. And I'm sure they reinforced that the way Peter and John later did.
Turn to Acts, the book of Acts. This is a wonderful insight, the 3rd chapter. This must have been one of the most amazing scenes ever to take place in the temple in Jerusalem. Peter and John were going to the temple at the ninth hour, which is set aside for prayer. Verse 1, Acts 3: So, the two of them go to the temple to pray; and there's a certain man, verse 2, been lame from his mother's womb. He was born with some deformity. "And he was carried." He couldn't walk. "So they used to bring him every day down to the gate of the temple which is called the Beautiful Gate,” so that he could sit there immobile, hold out his hand and beg alms of those who were entering the temple. It was a good place to beg, trying to play on people's religious sensibilities. And this beggar saw Peter and John about to go into the temple. He began asking to receive alms. Peter along with John...this is a startling moment for him...fixed his gaze upon him and said, 'Look at us.'" I love that. This man had been deformed from birth. This is a shameful, embarrassing way to live your life. He's a beggar. That's really the lowest rank imaginable in society. So here was a man who, of all things, wouldn't look anybody in the eye. Probably had his head shrouded under some kind of covering. "Look at us," he said. "And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, 'I do not possess silver or gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!'" Absolutely startling. "And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up." Peter just lifted him. "And immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened."
Creation took place, new legs. And there was no rehab period. Verse 8: "With a leap, he stood upright and began to walk." He never walked in his life, how did he know how to walk? I think you have to learn that. "He entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God." What a stir. Everybody knew who he was. "And all the people saw him walking and praising God and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. And while he was clinging to Peter and John, hanging on... Can you understand why? Hanging on. All the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, which is a big, long portico. I think it’s, if I remember right, at the south end of the temple ground. "All the people came running into that area full of amazement." I love this, "Peter when he saw this replied to the people," and here's the key, "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or, why do you gaze at us as if by our own power we made him walk?" That's the kind of disclaimer that I'm sure the disciples had given from the very first time they went out. "You don't think we did this." They knew and they made sure everybody else knew that this was power delegated to them, not possessed by them. And as you find out later, there are times when they go out to try to cast out demons and they can't do it because unbelief has entered and short-circuited the power flow from Christ.
Everybody knew the power was Jesus. Everybody knew that this was merely a delegated power. And even Herod then got the word and asks not, who are these men, but who is this man? So we get the response of Galilee to the blitz by the disciples and Jesus through the eyes of Herod. We get his reaction and the reaction of everybody else. And what did everybody else say? "Oh, it's John the Baptist back from the dead. Oh, it's Elijah, who never did die, went to heaven in a chariot so he's back. Or it's one of the prophets." Matthew 16:14 indicates they said it's Jeremiah or one of the prophets. So that's how they responded. All the wrong conclusions. Miracles, twelve times more than when Jesus did them, and they still don't know who He is. They still come up with the wrong answers.
But they did get one thing right. They got one thing really right. There wasn't any earthly explanation. There wasn't any human explanation. So, all the conclusions are: It's somebody from the other world. It's somebody from outside the time-space world. It's somebody from heaven. Back in chapter 7 it is recorded that the people said, "A great prophet has arisen from among us." That was their first spin on Jesus; that He was a prophet and He had risen up from among them. He was from the family of Joseph and Mary up in Nazareth. He was a Jew. He was a local Galilean boy and He had become a prophet. No more, He's not just a human prophet who rose up from among us. There's no human way to explain Jesus, not when He's banished illness from Galilee, not when He's cast demons out by the thousands if not the tens of thousands, not while He's raised people from the dead, stopped the ripples from a storm on the lake dead so that it becomes a glass pond, not when He controls the wind, not when He controls the fish, not when we'll see a little bit later He can feed people by creating food out of His hands. There's no human explanation for Him. So they were right about that. They were just wrong about who. They knew He had to be supernatural, not natural because there was no earthly explanation.
That's still true. If you read the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and you have any rationality that is not somehow blinded by your depravity, you can only come to one conclusion, and that is that there's no human explanation for Jesus, none. If you don't want to accept that because you don't want to admit your sin and your need for repentance and salvation, then you're going to have to conclude that He is John the Baptist raised from the dead, or Elijah back, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets, or a prophet that came up from among us, or a misguided revolutionary or whatever, whatever, whatever. But in order to do that, you have to reject the clear evidence of the biblical record.
Herod didn't say, "What is His message?" Everybody knew that. It was the message of the kingdom. That bothered Herod big time because he was the king. And somebody going around talking about a kingdom didn't sit well with him. In fact, John 6 verse 15 says, the people literally tried to take Jesus by force to make Him king. I mean, a ground-swell people movement to make a new king out of this resurrected prophet was what was going on. That was a severe threat to Herod's little rule over a small piece of real estate. There was never a question about His message. It was about a kingdom of God. It was about the forgiveness of sins. It was about the gospel. There was never a question about His miracles. Herod didn't say, "Does He really do these kinds of things?" It was so obvious there was no way around it. He just asked the right question, who is the man who does this? Who is the man who preaches this? Who is this man who does miracles, preaches the forgiveness of sins and the kingdom of God? Who is this man who says He is the king? Who is He?
Well, as I said, that is the question of all questions. Now let's go back to the text and just a little bit about Herod. When we were back in chapter 3, long time ago, in my youth, we...we did a little bit of work with Herod. We found out who he was. One of the really fascinating characters, this guy's life would make a...a soap opera...very dramatic, very fascinating. I don't want to go through the whole thing. If you go back to the material on the 3rd chapter, you can sort of reacquaint yourself with it.
But I'll give you a little bit. He is identified as Herod the Tetrarch. Now Herod was the name of a dynasty. The Herodian dynasty is the name of a family. Their family tree is as complex as a schematic for some kind of electronic device. There are lines going everywhere. And because it was all incestuous, they're all mingled together in bizarre ways. He was one of the Herods, called the tetrarch. “Tetrarch” is a technical term which basically means the ruler of a fourth of the region, a ruler over one fourth of the region. It actually came to have sort of a non-technical meaning and it meant a petty ruler, a small time ruler, a sort of the mini-ruler. And as I said, Galilee was fifty miles by twenty-five miles. It was a little tiny piece of land. So he was really a petty monarch. However, in Scripture he is called king, which is a little bit unusual. Luke is accurate. Luke is the really precise historian. He calls him what he was. He was really a tetrarch. He was a ruler over a fourth of a region. He wasn't really a king, but he was called king because that's what he wanted to be called. He was really a very low ranking kind of ruler. And, by the way, he was under the thumb of a very powerful king, Tiberius Caesar, who ruled the whole Roman Empire, including occupied Israel which was only one part of that Empire. In the big scheme of things, he was a nothing. In his own mind, he was big time king.
Now he probably picked that attitude up from his father. His father is called Herod the Great. And I'm sure nobody gave him that name. He just took it. Modesty was not something those people were interested in. Herod the Great, the “great one,” was not a Jew but he had been assigned by the Roman power to rule Israel. That did not make him popular. They did not like the Romans and they did not like a non-Jewish Idumaean ruling over them. He ruled for thirty-six years. It was Herod the Great, by the way, who was ruling when Jesus was born, remember. And it was Herod the Great who was so threatened by the birth of the King when the wise men told him that, he thought this boy would grow up and take over his throne. He was so threatened by that that he slaughtered all the male children two years and under, remember, in order to get rid of the king. And Jesus and His little family, they had to flee down to Egypt and it says that they stayed there, I think Matthew 2:19 says, until Herod was dead, and then they came back into the land of Israel and back to their home in Nazareth. They avoided him because he was...he was a murderous person.
In fact, he was so concerned about anybody who might be a threat to him that he killed his own sons. He killed one of his sons five days before his own death because he was afraid that son, Antipater, would take his throne. Oh by the way, he also massacred the entire Jewish Sanhedrin, all seventy of them. Not a nice man. But when he died, there was already in place a will which required that the kingdom be split into four parts and given to four individuals. Three of them, for certain, are his sons. One we don't know who he is. He died in 4 B.C. as we calculate the calendar back, and the kingdom was split. When he died, he was so despised and hated that when Josephus writes about his death, he writes in the most gross kind of language, which was how they heaped scorn on somebody. This is what Josephus wrote. "He died of ulcerated entrails, putrefied, maggot-filled organs, constant convulsions, foul breath." Well I'm sure. I'm sure all those things and no mints. I mean, that is enough to....Of course he died of all those things he'd have foul breath. It even...Josephus even said, "And warm baths didn't aid his recovery." Warm baths probably spread his disease. He was...He was some character.
But when he died, the kingdom was split. The first part was given to his son Archelaus and he got Judea, Judah, the area down around Jerusalem, Judah and Samaria and Idumea the area to the east where they had come from. But he only lasted a couple of years and then he was deposed and deprived of his inheritance. The Romans got rid of him and in his place they put a series of governors, the fifth of which was a man named Pilate who was the governor of Judea for ten years, from 26 to 36, so he was governor when Jesus was crucified.
The second area went to another son by the name of Philip and you have to be careful when you study Herod's children because he had so many wives that he had sons with the same names, though there were a couple of Philips at least. This Philip was given Iturea and Trachonitis. That's a region east of Galilee. You go north of the sea there and go to the east, that's that area. In fact, Bethsaida is in that area. It's outside Galilee, the town of Bethsaida, you know, where some of the disciples came from and where Jesus went to do the feeding of the 5,000, we'll see next time. So it was very close and it was adjacent to Galilee. That was Philip. He didn't last too long and he was succeeded by another Herod by the name of Herod Agrippa. You remember that name? And Herod Agrippa had a most interesting demise. He declared Herod Day, Acts 12 records it, and said, "Come and worship me." God didn't like it because he took his own glory and so he smote him and he was eaten with worms on Herod Day. That was a fitting rebuke. But anyway, Philip started out ruling that area.
A man named Lysanias was given the region north and west of Galilee. And then the fourth was Herod Antipas, Herod Antipas. That's this one. He is Herod the Great's son who was given rule over the area of Galilee and Perea, adjacent areas up around the Sea of Galilee. They're all petty monarchs, small-time, under the thumb of Tiberius Caesar, who was the successor to Augustus Caesar. And Tiberius ruled really for, I guess from 10 or 11 A.D. to 37 A.D., so he ruled through the full life of Christ, in Rome.
Herod the tetrarch had a long career. He ruled for forty-two years in Galilee and Perea. And he ruled through the entire life of Jesus from about two years old till after He was gone. He was hated by the Jews because he was a Roman. He was further hated by the Jews because he put up idols which they despised. He was further hated by the Jews because he built his capital city and called it Tiberius and built it on top of a Jewish cemetery. They didn't like that. That desecrated their cemetery. That made that city unclean because it was Roman; unclean because it was idolatrous, and unclean because it had desecrated a cemetery. So Jews very reluctantly went to that place. In fact one of the interesting and fascinating things about the life of Jesus is in His entire ministry there's no record in any of the gospels that He ever went there and frankly, you could walk there from Capernaum, but He never went there.
He loved wickedness. He, like his father, was murderous and wicked. Back in chapter 3, for a minute, we just got to get all this detail and then we'll fly through what's left. Back in chapter 3 verse 18, John the Baptist was preaching and preaching the gospel to the people when Herod the tetrarch was reproved by him on account of Herodias, his brother's wife. You know, Herod was a fascinating guy but he lived his life in this public way and he was the most notable public sinner. And he would be, you know, sort of the Bill Clinton of his time. He was sinning...He was sinning and the whole world knew it. He was sinning blatantly and everybody knew it. And so John just confronted him and it says, "He reproved him," present participle. Continually Herod was the theme of John's preaching. He exposed Herod not just for his sin with Herodias, his brother wife...brother's wife, but on account of all the wicked things that Herod had done. He had a whole litany of things, just a wretched individual. And so John just made him the leading illustration of iniquity. Love the boldness of that. I guess it would be inevitable for certain, verse 20, he locked John up in prison. He's not going to take that, so he imprisoned John. That was the end of John's mobility, right there. It was really the end of his ministry, except that his disciples could come to him and interact with him.
What was this about on account of Herodias, his brother's wife? Well I don't want to go into all the details, but just briefly. He had a brother named Philip, and Philip had married another brother's daughter. Philip had married a niece. As I said, incest was just the way things were. So Philip is married to this girl who is his niece. Herod Antipas, this guy, goes to Rome on a visit, sees the girl, likes her, seduces her, gets her to divorce her husband. He divorces his wife. They get married. So he marries his niece that was married to his brother. You know, that's tabloid stuff if you're the ruler. And so John just kept pointing it out, along with everything else wicked that he did. So he locked him in prison.
And then they had a party at...The prison was actually down in the subterranean area, I suppose, of the palace where they were having the party. He had a number of palaces. And the party got going and they got drinking and got wild and if there was anybody that hated John the Baptist more than Herod, it was Herod's wife, this girl he had seduced and got her to divorce her husband and then he married her. So her name was Herodias. She didn't like John either. So the party got wild. They got to drinking. And then the daughter of them, Salome, comes out and she does a seductive dance intended to incite lust, just for no other reason than that. And Herod became so overwhelmed with lust for the girl he said, "I'll give you anything you want, half of the kingdom." This is his daughter. How sick is this? So she goes over to mom and she says, "What do we want?" And she says, "The head of John the Baptist on a plate in here right now." She got it. The party ends with John's head brought in on a plate.
That happened...Go back to chapter 9. That happened right at this time. This is days from when that happened. And the account of that is in Matthew 14, first twelve verses, Mark 6 verses 17 to 29, you can read the account of that. So this is the guy called Herod the tetrarch. And when he heard of all that was happening because this blitz had gone on in Galilee, he's perplexed because when he asks the question, "Who is this man?" people say it's John risen from the dead. Yikes! And his response is, "I myself beheaded him, I saw the thing on a platter." Why would he conclude...Why would anybody conclude that it was John the Baptist raised from the dead? Why would anybody conclude that? You know, Scripture is pretty clear. John 10:41 says, "John never did a miracle." He never did a miracle at all, never. So how...Why would you say all this miraculous power is John the Baptist? He never did a miracle before he died. That wasn't rational. That wasn't a rational conclusion. People were saying, "This...this is...this is John the Baptist." He was confused, perplexed.
But only for a while. The Greek verb diaporeō means to be unable to find a way out of a dilemma. He couldn't get out of the dilemma. He was — this was heavy stuff — a miracle worker, a healer, a guy who could raise the dead, preaching a kingdom which threatened him, connected to this man John that he in a lustful stupor had beheaded and now what are people saying? They're saying this is John come back to life? You know, I know how Herod reacted to that rumor because Matthew 14:1 tells us, listen to this. "At the time, Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, he said to his servants, 'This is John the Baptist. He has risen from the dead and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.'" He probably started the rumor. Well why did he come to that conclusion? Have you ever heard of a guilty conscience? What is your worst nightmare? That this guy was a prophet of God, you cut off his head and now he's back? This is the power of a guilty conscience. It isn't rational because John never did miracles. But that's what a guilty conscience will do for you. This man was far more wicked than Judas. Judas was influenced by the grace of Christ so that he couldn't survive his guilty conscience; he killed himself. This man is so wretched that he actually can do this and keep living. So he killed him and then he thought he was back. This was so terrifying to him. Oh, there were other people who said it's Elijah because back in Malachi 3:1, Malachi 4:5, the Old Testament closes with a promise that before the Messiah comes that Elijah will come. That is to say before the Messiah there will be a prophet. The Old Testament says Elijah will come, but we all know that back in Luke 1 the angel said, you remember, to the parents of John the Baptist that he will come in the spirit and power of Elijah. John the Baptist was that Elijah at that time and would have been the final Elijah-like prophet if they had believed. Now there will be another one like Elijah that will come before the return of Christ. But there was reason to think that maybe it is Elijah. He's supposed to come before Messiah. And others said, "Well it's just one of the prophets." In Matthew 16:14 they even name Jeremiah. Herod was stuck on John and he said, "I cut his head off myself, so who is this man?" And he kept trying to see Him. That is a bad omen. You don't want to see him if you don't have to. Jesus never went to Tiberius. Just like His little family fled his father until he was dead, Jesus was not about to walk into the mouth of this lion until it was His time to die. Herod wanted to see Him. You think, "Well maybe he just, you know, wanted more information." Really, you'd only think that if you hadn't read Luke 13:31 and so now you will never think that again. Luke 13:31, "The Pharisees came up, talking with Jesus, and they said to Him, 'Go away and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.'" Herod wanted to see Jesus. If it turns out it's John, he'll kill him again. If it's not John, he'll kill him. Here it says, "He wants to kill You."
Could you just back up in your mind, back to verse 9? Who is this man about whom I hear such things? What do you think he heard? He heard about the miracles and he heard about the message. He heard about what Jesus did and what He said. He heard the gospel of the kingdom and he heard the litany of the inexplicable miracles. And he asked the right question, who is this man? But it wasn't really that he wanted to know so that he could believe, it was that he wanted to know so that he could decide whether he had to kill a man he had already killed or somebody else. And that's why he kept trying to see Him. And Jesus never saw him until...until He was taken in the garden by the Romans and then He went to that mock trial before Annas and Caiaphas and then they sent Him to Pilate, the Roman governor, because nobody wanted to execute Jesus unilaterally. They all wanted to get together to diffuse the responsibility. And Pilate was dealing with Him. Turn to the 23rd chapter of Luke. Pilate was dealing with Jesus trying to sort out what to do. Pilate knew He was an innocent man, hadn't done anything, but he had the Jews on his hands. He didn't want an insurrection or a rebellion or he could lose his governorship because Rome wanted him to keep the peace.
So Pilate doesn't know what to do. He doesn't want to act on his own. So he decides what's best. He sends Jesus to Herod, verse 7 of Luke 23. This is Herod tetrarch or Herod Antipas, as he's known. He just happened to be in Jerusalem at that time. How convenient. Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus. He had been waiting... Well he had been waiting for a couple of years to see Him because this is more than a year after the incident in chapter 9. He had been wanting to see Him all along, kept trying to see Him and Jesus avoided him. Now it says he was glad to see Jesus. He had wanted to see Him for a long time because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. It was just entertainment he wanted.
Verse 9 fascinates me. "And he questioned Him at some length." Well, what an opportunity, a personal audience with this miracle worker, this preacher like no other preacher. The reputation was that there had never been a person ever who spoke like he spoke, the level of profundity, clarity, insight unequaled. And then you add all the miracle powers, nobody like Him ever. And here he has his opportunity. You want to know who He is? He questioned Him at length. This was a great opportunity. Wouldn't it have been something if it had gone like this? "I need to know how my sins can be forgiven. I need to know how I can be delivered from wickedness. I need to know how I can humble myself after a life of pride. I need to know how I can become a part of the kingdom of God." But that was not the direction of the conversation, and we know that because Jesus would have answered those kinds of questions. But it says he questioned Him at some length but He answered him what? Nothing.
You say, "Well how do you know what his attitude was?" Because go to verse 11. "Herod, with his soldiers, after treating Him with content and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe." That was mocking His claim to be a king. "And they sent Him back to Pilate." "Now, Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day, for before they had been at enmity with each other." Their friendship was a common hatred for Jesus. Verse 9 says, "He didn't say anything." But look at verse 10, "The chief priests and the scribes were standing there accusing Him vehemently." They were doing all the talking. So what was the scene? All these Jewish leaders screaming vehemently the accusations and Herod saying, "Well was that true? Well what about that, really?" Jesus never said anything. Why? Because you don't cast your pearls before swine and you don't throw what is holy to dogs and you shake the dust off.
The question is still asked and answered today by every person who hears the gospel, who reads the New Testament. If you are willfully blind to the truth, if you refuse to believe the New Testament, if you refuse to believe the clear evidence of the life and work of Jesus Christ, if you will not hear His words and hear His works, if you will not acknowledge the diagnosis of your sinfulness and your condemnation to eternal hell and the only salvation through faith in Him, then you will come to the wrong conclusion about Jesus Christ to save yourself from a true understanding of what you are and where you're headed. Who is this man? Are You the Son of God? Yes I am. Even the demons said, "You are the Son of God." They knew. "You are the Holy One." That's why even today we do what Paul said. “We're determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Why? "Because there's no salvation in any other name than the name of Jesus Christ. As many as received Him, God gave the authority to become the sons of God, to those that believe in His name. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life." It's an old question. It's new every day in the life of every person. The right answer gives you heaven. The wrong answer gives you hell. Everything turns on how you answer this question. What tragedy there is for those who choose the wrong answer.
Father, we thank You for the illustration, the example of this man. We can't thank You for the man. We are broken-hearted that he even now dwells in eternal punishment and shall forever, but we can thank You for the warning that his life provides. And may it awaken us to a true assessment of our spiritual condition. Father, I ask that You would do Your work in every heart that is here to bring the powerful truth of the work and the words of Jesus to every heart that we might believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing have life in His name. These things we ask for His glory. Amen.