Luke 23:8-9 “When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.”
If our text ended after the first sentence, we might think, “How wonderful! Finally a leader who appreciated how important it is to get to know Jesus.” Herod had wanted to see him for a long time. In fact, “greatly pleased” is a rather mild way of translating his reaction. Herod was overjoyed. What a wonderful thing, it might seem, the lone bright spot in this darkest day in Jesus’ life.
Can we imagine that such a desire to see Jesus would ever be anything but good? If we were to run into someone who so desperately wanted us to introduce him to our Savior, could there possibly be a downside to this? Herod reveals that the human heart is so twisted that even the desire to see and know Jesus can be evidence of evil, not good.
What did Herod want from him? “From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle.” Here is the Redeemer of the World standing in front of Herod, and what is he thinking? “I’ve got Harry Houdini here.” He wanted to see a miracle, not because he was in desperate need of mercy. He wanted nothing more than a magic trick to entertain him, a pleasant diversion from the pressures of palace life.
When Jesus refuses to perform, Herod doesn’t give up. “He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” Think of the opportunity! What wouldn’t you give for an hour with Jesus, or just 10 minutes, to ask him your questions? But Herod’s questions were not theological or spiritual questions. “Come on Jesus, won’t you do just one? Just how did you make that bread feed so many? What’s your secret? Do it again.”
Herod’s reasons for seeking Jesus still appeal to some. God can and does work miracles in the lives of his people. That does not make them suitable as the center of attention in Christian worship. Where Christians conduct their worship with less spectacle, are they still tempted to value worship time because of its ability to entertain us for a little while? Do we have irreverent reasons for the time we seek with him?
Jesus answer to irreverence is powerful. “Jesus gave him no answer.” Jesus would not answer Herod or perform for him. How easy it would have been to do one quick trick and put an end to the humiliation. How easily he could have revealed his power, and put Herod and everyone else in his court in their place.
But for us, Jesus’ silence is golden. He displays his perfect love, even for Herod, by not giving in to his childish desires. He will not reinforce or confirm this kooky king in his sin. He treats him with silent respect, even when that respect is not returned.
Jesus silently bears this one more burden, this lack of respect, as part of carrying the guilt for our sins. He doesn’t do the trick and get himself freed. He endures the humiliation as another step toward the crucifixion and death that shows his true value and dignity—Deliverer from sin and death. He does so that we might be acknowledged as sons of God, and recognized in the only court and by the only King that really matters–his own Father in heaven.