Luke 23:1-7 (NIV)
1 Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate.
2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.”
3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
5 But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”
6 On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean.
7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
On verses 1-7: Being under Roman rule, the chief priests and teachers of the law did not have the authority to order capital punishment. So they go to someone with that authority, namely, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. The chief priests and teachers of the law try to convince Pilate that Jesus is deserving of death. Despite the assembly falsely accusing Jesus of subverting the Jewish nation and opposing payment of taxes (v2), and despite Jesus acknowledging that he is the king of the Jews (v3), Pilate finds no basis for a charge against Jesus (v4). Learning that Jesus is a Galilean, Pilate sends Jesus to King Herod, “the tetrarch of Galilee” (Luke 3:1), a subordinate ruler under Pilate ruling over the subregion of Galilee. Pilate was probably relieved that there was someone else to deal with this matter, at least for the time being.
Luke 23:8-11 (NIV)
8 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.
9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.
10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him.
11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.
On verses 8-11: King Herod, also known as Herod Antipas, was ruler over the subregions of Galilee and Perea. This was the same Herod who threw Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist in prison after John rebuked Herod for his adulterous and incestuous relationship with his sister-in-law Herodias. Herod would later have John the Baptist beheaded for extraordinarily trivial reasons. Now Jesus was coming face to face with the man who had wrongfully killed his cousin John the Baptist. Herod had been curious about Jesus not because he was spiritually seeking but more for entertainment reasons, but Jesus would not answer him.
Jesus’ exemplary conduct here reminds me of Proverbs 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.” Sometimes – not all the time, but sometimes – the best thing to do in the face of people who don’t take you seriously but who only want to mock you, criticize you or accuse you is to ignore them as best as you can. Sometimes going after your critics the same way they went after you will only escalate the conflict and ultimately cause more trouble for yourself. So may you have the wisdom to know when to ignore and keep silent versus when to speak up.
Luke 23:12 (NIV)
12 That day Herod and Pilate became friends–before this they had been enemies.
On verse 12: Why were Herod and Pilate enemies? We don’t know for sure. We do know that Pilate had previously ordered the killing of Galileans while they were worshiping in the temple, as referred to Luke 13:1-2. According to historians, Pilate also took funds from the Jews’ temple treasury to pay for an aqueduct, something which the Jews resented Pilate for. The animosity between Herod and Pilate may have had to do with one or both of these incidents. By sending Jesus to Herod, Pilate perhaps was indirectly trying to make amends and pay Herod some honor and respect.
Lord Jesus, I praise You for being so poised, wise, and self-controlled in the midst of all the unfair mockery and accusations You faced back then, and which You still face to this day. I pray that I would be wise and self-controlled like You, knowing when to keep silent and when to speak up. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!