Trial Before Herod Antipas
Luke 13:32, “And He said to them, ‘Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’”
Aesop wrote in his famous fables of a famished fox who spied a cluster of ripe black grapes hanging from a trellised vine. But despite every effort the fox could not reach the fruitful vine and so turned away muttering, “The grapes are sour and not ripe as I thought.”
The Bible tells a similar true story of a fox and a vine. According to John’s gospel, Jesus declared, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). Again, “I am the true vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (15:5). According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus, warned by the Pharisees that Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, desired to kill him, responded fearlessly, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow and the third day I shall be perfected’” (Luke 13:32). So again we have a fruitful Vine and a hungry fox.
Herod Antipas—you may know him better as the king in Mark 6 who imprisoned John the Baptizer for denouncing his marriage to his brother’s wife and who later had John beheaded—had journeyed to Jerusalem from Galilee for the Passover feast. Although not particularly pious, Herod made it a habit to attend the feast, hoping to maintain his popularity with the Jews. Luke records the only known encounter between that fox and the Vine, for Pilate had sent Jesus to Herod for trial after learning that Jesus, a Galilean, belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction. Herod “had heard many things about , and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him” (Luke 23:8). But try as he might, Herod could not bend the Vine to satisfy his desires, for Jesus would not do or say anything in Herod’s presence. Although Herod had reportedly desired to kill Jesus, surprisingly Herod simply muttered disappointment with him, and after roughing him up and mocking him for sport, the fox returned Jesus back to Pilate unimpressed.
If Jesus had displayed a tiny flash of his divinity, Herod might have intervened and spared Jesus from death. What would it have hurt to turn Herod’s servants to stone and then back again? Why not temporarily transform the king’s crown into a beautiful cluster of grapes? But Jesus refused to compromise, for the time of miracles had passed. Today he must “be perfected.” Today he must do his Father’s will and give his life for all mankind.
Herod had “gladly” listened to John the Baptizer (Mark 6:20) before signing off on his beheading, and “when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad” (Luke 23:8), but that changed too when the king could not get what he wanted. Prophets may not tell us what we want to hear. Jesus may not perform miracles at our bidding. Many find Jesus interesting or entertaining, but when they cannot get from him what they wish, they turn away from the Vine. Jesus answers only to his Father, the Vinedresser—not to our whims and wants.
Today inside the courtyard of the Citadel on the west side of the Old City of Jerusalem lie the ruins of the Herod family palace, the likely location of Herod Antipas’ encounter with Jesus. The modern excavations testify of Jesus’ wordless refusal to compromise before a self-indulgent king.
If you’ve been disappointed by God’s answer to your persistent prayers; if he doesn’t seem to act when you hoped; or if it may seem that he’s not even there, that does not signify that he is powerless or preoccupied, but only that he has a purpose that sees beyond your immediate wishes or wants. Do not turn away from the Vine. The grapes of God’s grace always taste sweet, and for those who will bend to his purposes, they are always within reach.
Further Reading: Luke 23:6-12
Dr. Daniel McCabe is the pastor of Faith Bible Church in Spring, Texas. He is a contributing editor for The Jerusalem Connection Report. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.