The sending of Jesus to Herod excuses Pilate from responsibility and shows political skill. No one can accuse Pilate of demagoguery on the touchy issue of Jesus.
Because of the holiday season, Herod himself is also in Jerusalem—a coincidence of divine proportions—staying at a beautiful palace west of the temple (Josephus Jewish Wars 2.16.3 344; 5.4.4 176-83; on debate over Herod's authority, see Antiquities 14.15.2 403). When Jesus is brought before him, Herod hopes for a show, for he has been longing to see Jesus work miracles. But Jesus is not an entertainer given to fulfilling curiosity.
With his innocence established in the previous examination, Jesus takes a new defense tactic. He remains silent. No longer will he answer any questions. Justice should have dictated his release. He has defended himself with brief statements of truth. Now that justice is silent, he responds with his own silence. The events recall Isaiah 53:7, which Luke cites in Acts 8:32.
The silence deeply disappoints Herod. In the face of Jesus' silence, the chief priests and scribes press their case, vehemently accusing him. Once they formed their opinion of Jesus, their accusations have never stopped (Lk 6:7; 23:2, 14). The leadership is turning up the pressure.
Herod takes advantage of the occasion to mock Jesus, arraying him in bright, regal apparel and sending him back to Pilate. The contempt that Herod shows to Jesus was predicted in Luke 18:32. Herod's verdict is not noted here but is mentioned in verse 15. Herod's comical antics show that he sees no threat in Jesus.
Pilate's move reaps the dividend of Herod's appreciation. Where there had been enmity, now there is friendship, for Pilate has shown respect for Herod's position.
Thus Jesus has become a political pawn. Since he has been declared innocent by two leaders, justice would say that Jesus should be released, but injustice and destiny are at work. Ironically, his presence has brought reconciliation between two old opponents. Their reconciliation is another step on the way to his unjust death.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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