And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season…
Most of us will admit that this is an age of much curiosity about religion. The phrase would seem to include three things. First, curiosity about religion as an interesting phase of human thought. Then, curiosity about religion as exhibited in the picturesque and commanding personages who have founded new faiths. But yet again there may be curiosity about religion as a possible manifestation of the extra-natural or supernatural. Revivalism and spiritualism make the flesh creep not altogether unpleasingly. August and ancient ceremonials haunt the imagination with their weird magnificence. The verses which I have read bring before us the very type of irreligious or non-religious curiosity about religion, and of the punishment which awaits it.
I. In the passage itself let us note, in the first place, THE DEALINGS OF HEROD ANTIPAS WITH JESUS.
1. Herod did not take any active part in the greatest tragedy of time.
2. It will be necessary for our purpose to consider, secondly, Herod's position in the religious world of his day. That he was a Sadducee would seem to be certain from profane history, and from a comparison of St. Matthew with St. Mark.
3. The character of Herod Antipas may be thought too black to contain even a warning for any of us. He was but a promising pupil in the school of which Tiberius was a master; a meaner trickster, a punier liar, a feebler murderer. He was "the fox," as our Lord called him, not the wolf. Yet in one respect he was not so unlike some of us. A mist of superstition hung over the unclean pool of lust and hatred which he had made his soul. He was alternately repelled and attracted by Christ. That he was not incapable of religious curiosity the text sufficiently witnesses. Some in our day might exclaim that it was perhaps unfortunate that an opportunity was lost of gratifying the curiosity of a person so interesting — as if Christ was Incarnate to amuse dilettanti. But He who knows all men and what is in man knew better. The blood-stained hands are held out "half caressingly." The voice which commanded the head of John Baptist to be given to the daughter of Herodias pours forth its flood of superficial questions. He will not waste one miracle or one word. As they of old loved to teach, the silent Jesus, working no sign, is a prophecy and a sign to us. "He answered him nothing."
II. The whole incident thus becomes full of lessons to us. A thoughtful, meditative reader stops in awe. If we feel the awfulness of that silence, we shall, I think, recognize the truth of that which I am about to say. There is, no doubt, a sort of curiosity about religion which is the necessary result of quickened intellectual, nay, of quickened spiritual life. But the smiting of the people of Beth-shemesh is net recorded for nothing. Free inquiry is one thing, free-and-easy inquiry is another. If we play with God, it is at our own risk. The question is — what do you believe? We stand fronting eternity, not with the many propositions which we affect to believe or think we believe, but with the few which we do believe. Can we make an act of faith in God? We see Him standing mute before the curiosity of Herod Antipas, and we say, "Save us, oh save us, from that silence!"
(Bishop Win. Alexander.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.
WEB: Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad, for he had wanted to see him for a long time, because he had heard many things about him. He hoped to see some miracle done by him.