During the reading of Luke’s Passion Gospel on Sunday, I read Herod’s part with new eyes. “Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign.” (Lk 23:8) I wonder how much “Herod” we each have within us?
Herod was glad to see Jesus? That seems rather odd. In the context of Pilate sending Jesus to Herod to make a decision about Jesus’ life, Herod’s reaction seems more cartoonish in nature. My mind conjures up a grown man bouncing up and down on his throne and clapping his hands in delight at the potential of seeing some wonderful event before his eyes. Yet, this should exactly be our response to Jesus; with joy and gladness, we welcome His presence into our daily life. Our reaction, however, should not be conditional on anything Jesus does for us, but rather the sheer act of Jesus being God should alone account for the celebratory nature in the response. For some, welcoming Jesus joyfully is easy to do when things are going well. For others, even when there are abundant blessings, welcoming the Divine with gladness seems not to be a natural reaction, but a difficult choice requiring much effort.
Herod had been waiting to see Jesus for a long time. Why wait? Why didn’t King Herod send his men to bring Jesus before him? If Herod really wanted to see Jesus, he didn’t have to wait on the obscure chance that Pilate would send Jesus his way to decide His fate. Herod could have created the opportunity to meet Jesus if he really wanted to see him. Perhaps all the stories he heard about Jesus may have been too much for Herod to believe, and because of the doubt, it didn’t warrant the investment in time or resources to meet with Jesus. How many of us want a relationship with God, or a closer relationship with God, but end up further away because of all the necessary “things” we need to do in life. This is one of the great advantages of Lent: it gives us the opportunity to engage more in our spiritual life with a set amount of space and time.
Herod hoped to see Jesus perform some sign. How many times do we ask God for a sign and then feel disappointed when it doesn’t happen? To me, it seems like when I approach life looking for signs or divine influence, I’m much more able to see them, than if I ask specifically for a particular occurrence. Is it because I’m looking for a sign to see that what I want is what God wills? How much God blesses us when we, in faith, trust in His providence? Rather than asking Him for signs to believe in Him, we believe in Him and see the signs around us. For others, a sign is a requirement before belief; perhaps even if they see the sign, they explain it away, rather than opening up to truly welcome God into their life.
Herod was looking for Jesus to prove who He was and His importance. While Herod was initially glad to see Jesus, because Jesus did not meet his expectations, Herod dismissed him. How often do we dismiss Jesus because He hasn’t met up with our expectations? Is it truly fair for us to put expectations on any person — Jesus, our family members, our friends, our coworkers, really anyone? Is it any wonder that Jesus does not respond to Herod at all? Jesus is not a magician to put on a show for others, rather He is a healer looking for those with faith to respond to Him. It is when we acknowledge our frailty and need of Him, opening ourselves up to whatever God wills, that we can be healed, changed, and transformed.