By Amanda Cleary Eastep
“That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.” Luke 23:12
Did you ever notice this verse in the crucifixion story? It hit me like a Roman brick this morning.
We can pretty easily recall the scene in the Good Friday story where Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate before his crucifixion.
3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
What I forget is that Pilate then sends Jesus to King Herod to get his opinion before Pilate makes a final decision.
Herod is kind of excited about this. He’s heard of Jesus and wants to see some of his cool magic. But Jesus doesn’t oblige, so Herod relentlessly mocks him, and just for funsies, he dresses Jesus in an elegant robe and sends him back to Pilate.
That’s where the Roman brick verse comes in:
12 “That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.”
Isn’t this SO our love-hate relationship with the devil and the roles we often play?
Satan as Herod–mocking God, tempting us, sitting big and fat and proud in a false place of power.
Us as Pilate–wavering, unsure, likes Jesus or fears him, but can’t make a stand.
Of course Herod didn’t condemn Jesus, neither does Satan. He let’s us do that. He’s happy to play the innocent and leave the decision-making to us, because he knows our weaknesses. He sees our potential.
And Pilate takes the bait. But that’s OK, because you know what? He and Herod are BFFs now, friends forever. Once this whole nasty thing is over, maybe Herod will invite him over for a glass of wine and they can swap Jesus-fail stories.
Yet, Pilate is almost pitiful in his impotence as he takes his case back to the gathered crowd.
13-16 “I examined him in front of all of you and found there was nothing to your charge. And neither did Herod, for he has sent him back here with a clean bill of health. It’s clear that he’s done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death.” [The Message]
Like Pilate, we say things like, “Yeah, Jesus is a good man, I believe that. I haven’t seen him do anything worthy of my hate, but I haven’t seen him do anything that spectacular lately either.”
Like Pilate, I pass the buck, I do what’s easy.
I offer temptation a seat, I stay angry at the love I once couldn’t live without, I remain silent when I have such Good News to share.
I am lukewarm.
I make friends with Herod.
But sometimes we’re just part of the crowd, too, the one Pilate informs so gallantly about Jesus’ innocence…three times.
Yet, this is no ordinary crowd…oh, wait, it is. These are regular people, you’s and me’s, moms and dads, business people, farmers, teachers, law abiding citizens, worshippers of God.
Just like each man and woman there, we daily allow the devil to tempt us into rebellion. Rile us up against the only friend who’s true.
What’s the people’s reaction to Pilate’s namby pamby, “Wellllll, Jesus didn’t do anything wrong…even Herod says so. I’m gonna let him go. What do you say guys? Guys…??
The crowd cries out. Kill him!
Kill him in our holidays, kill him in our schools, kill him in our homes our marriages our parenting our morning rituals our thoughts our actions.
Give us Barabbas, the condemned murderer instead.
Give us what we want, what we think we need desire lust after, give us what makes absolutely no sense except to us, give us the thing we don’t realize will crush us in the end.
So horribly good.
How can I not see myself standing where Pilate stands, almost pleading for someone to get him out of having to stand up for Jesus?
How can I not see myself in that roaring crowd demanding my wrong way, blinded by my sins, great and small?
And how can I not see that I was the one who scrawled King of the Jews over the bowed head of my dying Savior?