Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 19, 2017
7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done: and he was much perplexed, because that it was said by some, that John was risen from the dead; 8 and by some, that Elijah had appeared; and by others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. 9 And Herod said, John I beheaded: but who is this, about whom I hear such things? And he sought to see him.
— Luke 9:7-9, ESV
Most people would like to think of themselves as friends of God and followers of Jesus Christ, at least on some level. Most people think they have a good idea of who Jesus is, good teacher, kind man, son of God (aren’t we all?), etc. Most people are wrong.
Most people are enemies of God and filled with fatal errors in their understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is an unpleasant fact, though it can be proven from Scripture and history. One man from the annals both is a particularly good example of an enemy of God and an error-filled analyst of Jesus. His name is Herod Antipas, the governor of Galilee in the days of John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah.
Enemies of God
If the ten most wanted criminals against the kingdom of God could be put on a wanted poster, half of them would be named Herod. This clan claimed a half affiliation with God and the Jewish people, but their hearts were wholly against the great Jehovah and two of the most prominent Jews who ever lived: John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.
It was Herod “the Great” who bribed and built his way into favor with the empire of Rome and the nation of Israel. A wealthy, politically connected half-Jew seemed a good man for Rome to appoint king over Israel, and Herod the Great reigned from the time Rome came into power in Palestine to the birth of Christ. During his tenure, Herod did rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. He pretended to be a friend of God for political power. But when Herod learned late from the Magi that God’s Son had been born in Bethlehem, that enemy of God and all that is good murdered all the male children in the area two years of age and younger (ref. Matthew 2:16).
It was his son Herod Antipas, “Herod the Tetrarch” in our text, who created a scandal by committing adultery with his brother's (Herod Philip) wife. He then falsely imprisoned John the Baptist when the great preacher called him on the carpet for his sin. Herod Antipas compounded his sin by cutting off the head of John the Baptist at the whim of a stripper, who was the daughter of his cousin, who he had stolen from his brother and married (you can’t make this stuff up!?). Perhaps Herod Antipas at least had some guilt about what he had done, and in his guilt reached out and claimed to be a seeker of Jesus Christ. When He finally found Jesus, however, arrested and in the criminal court of Pontius Pilate, Herod mocked the Lord and moved Jesus along one step closer to the cross.
In the next generation, Herod Agrippa I persecuted the church, murdered James the Apostle, and sought to do the same to Simon Peter (ref. Acts 12). Go down one more limb on this rotten family tree and you find Herod Agrippa II mocking the Apostle Paul as he preached the gospel (ref. Acts 25). It would be hard to find anyone with harder hearts towards God than the Herod family, would it not?
No, not really. You may be surprised to find out just how many enemies of God exist. It is virtually everyone on planet Earth. Unless, of course, you are a part of the small remnant of fully devoted followers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the only peace treaty between God and man.
Jesus said, “Whoever is not with Me is against me” (ref. Matthew 12:30). “With Me” means saved by grace through faith. “With Me” means faithful to the word and will of God. “With Me” means Christian, through and through, and no amount of money or religion, of which Herod had plenty, can make it otherwise.
But lest we Christians get too proud that we are exclusively the friends of God, we must remember that we were once enemies, too. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (ref. Romans 5:10).
God has shown mercy to us, so let us show mercy to others by sharing with them the life-changing, soul-saving, side-switching gospel of Jesus Christ. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (ref. Romans 10:13). But just who is the Lord? This is a question Herod could not answer correctly.
Errors About Jesus Christ
Herod Antipas could not pin down the person of Jesus Christ. At first he seemed to misunderstand the Christian doctrine of resurrection. Perhaps, he thought, John the Baptist had risen from the grave, reattached his head, and started preaching again. Or maybe it was just after killing John for his powerful and pointed preaching, he found in Jesus another mere man like John who was at it again.
Then Herod moved more towards a synchronistic combination of Jewish tradition and eastern mysticism. He thought that maybe Jesus was the reappearance of Elijah or the reincarnation of another ancient prophet, perhaps Moses or Isaiah. Some Jews believed that one or more of the three would reappear one day, and Herod was half Jewish. He was also wholly wrong about the person of Jesus Christ.
Herod is not alone in his mistaken ideas about the person and work of Christ. The same high percentage of enemies of God in the world are also erroneous in their understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done, and will do. Like Herod, people inside and outside of Christendom believe Jesus to be some kind of a combination of man and myth.
Heretics, people holding false and dangerous views of Jesus and the gospel, emerge early, middle, and late in church history. They typically deny either the full deity and/or the true humanity of Jesus Christ. Modern Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are perhaps the most prevalent preachers of the old Arian heresy. Heretics are often more sincere than nominal Christians who claim to hold to orthodoxy, but they are sincerely wrong. Heresy is just as fast a track to hell as hypocrisy.
Let the truth be told. Jesus of Nazareth, born two thousand years ago but existing from eternity past, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, and rose again the third day. He is fully God and became a flesh and blood man. He is the one true and living Lord and the only Savior of the world. He is the bearer of righteousness and the substitute for sinners. He is Jesus Christ, and the only way of salvation is repentance toward God and belief in Him.
The gospel is a white flag being waved by God in pursuit of peace with men. Only it is not God who is surrendering, it is God commanding you to surrender. Herod claimed to be a seeker of Jesus, like the thousands who attend shallow seeker services in so-called churches today. But they cannot see the white flag for the black sin in their hearts. They may sing, “I am a friend of God,” but without real repentance and genuine faith wrought by spiritual regeneration, they remain God’s enemies.
The gospel is a book of perfect understanding, capable of being read by child and scholar alike. It is published from Heaven by the Spirit of God and placed on shelves since the fall of man (ref. Genesis 3:15). Herod should have read it, but he didn’t. People today should know it, but they don’t. An error in the lab may cause an explosion, but an error about Jesus can result in a far greater fire.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is peace with God and perfect forgiveness of sin. The Herod clan did not find it and could not kill it. But through their bad example, you have heard the gospel today.
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