Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, ‘John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he tried to see him.Luke 9:7-9
Yesterday’s reading challenged us to follow the path of true discipleship. Today’s reading exemplifies the common human response to God’s call.
Herod was a ruthless ruler who would stop at nothing to protect his position of power. He compromised with the occupying Roman forces and brutally crushed those of his own people who opposed him. But … he was also curious.
Herod knew of Jesus. He had heard of his teaching and healing. He recognized the affinity between Jesus and John the Baptist, who he had had executed on a whim. But … Herod was curious.
Herod recognized that Jesus was different from John. Herod made connections between Jesus and the prophets of old. But … Herod remained curious. In fact, we read that Herod tried to see him.
What would such an encounter have been like, I wonder? Would Herod have become a faithful disciple, repenting of all his evil ways, or would he have dismissed Jesus as a charlatan? Would Herod have come close to following Jesus’ teaching, or would he have considered the sacrifice of power and wealth as too high a price to pay?
The questions that would have confronted Herod are questions that challenge us every day of our lives. We can all see that Jesus is special, that Jesus is unique, that Jesus wants us to draw closer to him. But … we can also see, as Herod could, that following Jesus is costly. To follow Jesus is to set aside self-interest, pride and greed. To follow Jesus is to be ready to put ourselves at the back of the queue, and most definitely not at the front.
We all know people who want to meet Jesus, or rather, who say they want to meet Jesus. We also recognize the fear of meeting Jesus in the eyes and hearts of those people. But … while we are observing this in others, have we noticed our own attitude to Jesus? We profess the Christian faith, we say we are followers of Jesus, but how do we respond to his call? What limitations do we impose, and what red lines do we draw?
Where are we in the gospel narrative? Are we amidst the disciples or are we standing alongside Herod?