And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season…
I. THAT ALL SUBJECTS REVEAL THEMSELVES ACCORDING TO THE MENTAL MOOD IN WHICH THEY ARE EXAMINED. That which is looked for, is found or thought to be found. The same person or principle examined through the respective media of sympathy and antipathy, will reveal aspects the most different. It is of vital importance to remember this fact in all our investigations of creeds, or balancings of contradictory evidence, so that we may escape both the traductions of prejudice and the blindings of partiality. The non-recognition of this truth has induced the grossest misrepresentations of social life, of individual belief, and of denominational doctrine.
II. THAT THE DIVINE BEING DISCRIMINATES OUR MENTAL MOODS. Apparently, Herod was in a pleasing state of mind. Superficial observers would have been delighted with his animated and cordial bearing. What could be more gratifying to Christ than that Herod was "exceeding glad" to see Him? There was no royal hauteur, no cold rebuff, no vengeful triumph. Why, then, that awful silence? Could Herod have done more to conciliate the favour of his renowned prisoner? Was it not an act of incomparable condescension for Herod to wear a smile in the presence of a reputed blasphemer and seditionist? For Christ's significant reserve there must be some peculiar but satisfactory reason. It was not fear of the judge, for He was the judge's Creator and Sovereign; it was not contempt, for He entertains a just regard for all the creatures of His hand; it was not constitutional sullenness, for none could be more open and engaging than He; it was not consciousness of guilt, for His most rancorous foes failed in their attempts at crimination. Why, then, did Christ thus treat a man who was "exceeding glad" to "see Him"? The only satisfactory answer which we can suggest is that Herod's gladness did not arise from a proper cause; or, in other words, was no true index to his mental mood. Christ looked deeper than the smile which lighted Herod's countenance, or the mere blandishment of his manner; He discriminated the mood of mind, and acted accordingly.
III. THAT CERTAIN MENTAL MOODS DEPRIVE MEN OF THE RICHEST BLESSINGS OF CHRISTIANITY. Why that solemn silence on the part of Christ? Because of Herod's mental mood. The judge wished his curiosity gratified, he had heard of the great wonder-worker, and longed to behold His feats of skill, or His displays of power. Christ knew the treatment proper for the oblique-minded judge, and acted accordingly: He would not work miracles to gratify a king; He would smile on a child, or dry the tear of misery, but He would not court the applause or solicit the patronage of royalty. To whom, then, will the Lord Jesus deign to reveal Himself in tender speech or loving vision? Is there any intellect on whose conflicts with scepticism He will bestow His attention? Is there any heart on whose strugglings with sin He will lift up the light of His countenance? Since He was silent before Herod, will He be communicative to any of His creatures? He shall answer for Himself, "To this man will I look." Suppose the Divine speaker had paused here, what inquisitiveness and suspense would have been occasioned! "To this man"; to which man, blessed Lord, wilt Thou look? to the man who has slain kings, and wandered to the throne of power through the blood of the warrior and the tears of the widow? to the man who has enrolled his name among the proudest of conquerors? to the man who boasts attachment to the cold exactitudes of a heartless theology? to the man arrayed in purple, and enshrined in the splendour of a palace? is this the man to whom Thou wilt look? Nay! 'Tis a grander spectacle which attracts the Divine eye — to the man "that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at My word" (Isaiah 66:2). Here, then, we have two conditions of Divine communion, viz., contrition and reverence: apart from these there can be no spiritual fellowship. In Herod these conditions were not found; hence Christ was dumb i So with us: if we would truly worship God we must fulfil the conditions herein demanded. To be more distinct on this part of the subject, I may enumerate a few classes of hearers, whose mental moods deprive them of spiritual enjoyment:
1. Men of violent personal antipathies. Such persons confound the minister with his message; so that if any whim has been assaulted, or any favourite dogma contravened, they forthwith resort to misinterpretation, they turn every appeal into a personality, and that which was intended as a blessing they pervert into a curse! God will not commune with them: they fulfil not the conditions of fellowship — they are neither contrite nor reverent — and Christ answers them nothing!
2. Men of large speculative curiosity. Herod belonged to this class. They wish to pry into the secrets of the Infinite: not content with the ample disclosures which the Divine Being has graciously granted, they would penetrate into the deepest recesses of His nature, and scale the loftiest altitudes of His universe. They conceive a philosophic dislike for the common-place truths of Christianity; and regard with patronising pity the minister who lingers on the melancholy hill of Calvary. Such men would understand all mystery: they would break the silence of the stars, or detain the whirlwind in converse: they would summon angels from their high abode and extort the secrets of heaven, they would even dare to cross-examine the Deity Himself on the propriety of His moral government! God will answer them nothing.
3. Men who accept rationalism as their highest guide. They reject all that reason cannot comprehend. Their own intellect must see through every subject, otherwise they consider it as worthy only of repudiation. They read the New Testament as they would read a work on mathematics, or a treatise on physical science, expecting demonstration of every point. Such men leave the Bible with dissatisfaction. Christ treats them with silence: their flippant questions elicit no response: their feeble reason plunges in hopeless confusion — Infinitude refuses to be grasped in a human span, and Eternity disdains to crowd into one little intellect its stupendous and magnificent treasures.
4. Men who delight in moral darkness. Such men have no objection to theological discussion; they may even delight in an exhibition of their controversial powers, and, at the same time, hate the moral nature and spiritual requirements of the gospel. So long as attention is confined to an analysis of abstract doctrines they listen with interest, but the moment the gospel tears away the veil from their moral condition — reveals their depravity — upbraids their ingratitude — smites their pride — and shakes their soul with the assurance of judgment and eternity, they sink back into sullenness, they take refuge in infidelity, or they curse and blaspheme! Your Herods care not for moral betterance; they wish their fancies gratified — they desire their questions answered, but they persist in following the devices of their imagination, and imprisoning themselves in the bond-house of bestial passion. The text suggests —
IV. THAT MEN SO DEPRIVED RESORT TO OPPOSITION. "And Herod with his men of war set Him at naught, and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him again to Pilate." This is a striking illustration of the manner in which the truth has been treated in all ages. Men have approached the Bible with foregone conclusions, and because those conclusions have not been verified they have revolted, and assumed an antagonistic attitude. Ample illustration of the proposition might be adduced from the history of infidelity, bigotry, and persecution: but instead of lingering on this department of the subject we hasten to indicate the practical bearing of the thesis on the matter more immediately in hand. As an assembly of men responsible in some degree for the dissemination of Christian truth, it is important to understand how we can best fulfil our mission. In prosecuting this inquiry let me remind you of three things:
1. That the Bible is God's appointed representative. What Christ was to Herod, the Scriptures are to us, viz., the embodiment of Divine truth and love. The very fact of our having the Bible, involves a tremendous responsibility.
2. That the Bible must be approached in a sympathetic spirit.
3. That we are responsible for our manner of reproducing the Bible.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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.