Ironies of the Passion
He Had Been Wanting to See Jesus
A sermon based on Luke 23:6-12
Wednesday, March 22, 2017 – Lent 4
The movie trailer looked exciting. It had all the elements of a great movie: An engaging story line, excellent special effects, lots of action and explosions, even a classic love story. The trailer made its viewers declare, "I want to see that!"
But when the movie was released, it didn't do so well in the box office. The reviews weren't so good. It turned out to be a box office flop, just barely earning back in the first several weeks what they spent to make the movie.
King Herod didn't have a movie trailer, but he did hear reports. Jesus was doing miracles. He was multiplying bread, turning water into wine, even raising the dead! And this was a show Herod didn't want to miss! "I want to see that!" Herod proclaimed. But Jesus wasn't performing at the theater nearest Herod. So Herod longed to see Jesus, the magician, the wonder maker, the miracle worker!
How ironic, then, that when he did finally get to see Jesus, he was disappointed that Jesus wasn't the entertainment he had hoped to see. Jesus was a box office flop, as far as Herod was concerned.
What is Jesus to you? What do you look for him for? What do you see in him? Do you too long to see Jesus?
Our text for consideration this evening is found in Luke 23:6-12…
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.
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. 12 That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.
Herod the Great tried to have Jesus executed when he was still an infant. Now, this man, Herod the Great's son, Herod Antipas, the man who had John the Baptist executed at the request of his wife, had heard about Jesus. This Herod ruled over Galilee where Jesus made his headquarters during his three year ministry. And with Jesus right there in his backyard, he surely heard of the miracles: the water turned to wine, the calming of the storm, the loaves of bread multiplied, the dead brought back to life.
And Herod wanted to see Jesus. He wanted to see some of these miracles, these magic tricks, this Jewish rabbi could perform. Maybe he could make Herod some wine. Maybe he could multiply his bread… or better! His gold! Maybe Jesus would levitate or turn a staff to a snake like Moses and Aaron of old. Whatever miracle he could perform, Herod wanted to see it. He wanted to be entertained!
How ironic! Herod had an audience with Jesus—with God himself. And though Jesus had come to win forgiveness of every sin on the cross, Herod didn't want that. He didn't want forgiveness for sleeping with his niece… who was already married… to his younger brother! (Talk about soap opera drama!) He didn't want forgiveness for orchestrating his brother's downfall so Rome would replace him with Pontius Pilate. He didn't want forgiveness for murdering John the Baptist when John pointed out how wrong this all was. He didn't want forgiveness at all. He just wanted to be entertained.
How ironic that his Savior from all that sin stood right there before him, but Herod was not impressed, but rather disappointed, because he didn't get the show he wanted. And so he ignored the forgiveness he needed. And he sent Jesus back to Pilate without ever understanding who really stood before him.
How about you? Do you want to see Jesus? Of course you do, right? After all, that's why you're here at church tonight, isn't it? It's not just for the delicious bacon-themed potluck, but to hear the account of our Savior's Passion so that we, in our own way, might see Jesus.
Or is that why you came tonight? Maybe you really did come for the bacon. Or you came to see your friends. Or you came just out of habit, because that's what we do on Wednesdays in Lent. It beats sitting at home watching TV.
And do you ever go home disappointed, not just because the sermon was boring or didn't engage you (and that can happen), but because Jesus wasn't the Jesus you'd hoped for? Because he didn't offer you the entertainment you sought?
Though the stories of Jesus are certainly exciting, Jesus is not an entertainer. Though he can do miracles, he is not a magician. Though he can heal, he is not a doctor. And though he owns all things in the universe, he is not your vending machine.
And when we look to Jesus to make us healthier, to give us a better family life, to help us get debt free, or to generally make our life happier here on earth, we miss the point.
How ironic if we came here where our Savior from all our sin is before us, and then went home unimpressed and disappointed, because Jesus wasn't the Savior we wanted and we missed out on the forgiveness so needed. How Herod-like we can so often be!
Nevertheless, though Herod wanted to see a magic show, Jesus wouldn't give it to him. And how ironic that if Jesus had performed a miracle to appease Herod, Herod would have likely tried to save Jesus' life so he could see more miracles from the great magician in the future. But because Jesus refused to perform like a trained monkey, because Jesus refused to answer Herod's questions and remained silent, he would be condemned to death.
But that was the point. That was why Jesus had come: to die; to be ridiculed and mocked, to be sent back to Pilate to be condemned, to be tortured and crucified, to take Herod's sin and Pilate's sin and your sin, and my sin—our misplaced priorities of loving entertainment more than our Savior, of looking to Jesus to make this life better instead of for forgiveness, for looking to him for the wrong things… and to take our sin on himself, that he might take our sin away.
Herod thought he had power over Jesus, but Jesus let this all happen so that he could carry our sin to the cross. And so, the God who made the universe by the power of his word and with a word could have leveled Herod and his soldiers and the chief priests and the teachers of the law, knocking them all flat to the ground… This omnipotent God allowed himself to be dressed in a purple robe, mocked as a false king, and sent back to Pilate to be sent to the cross.
Out of love for Herod and Pilate and you and me, Jesus chose the cross. And because he was mocked by Herod and his soldiers, you and I won't be mocked by the devil in hell. Because Jesus submitted to the chains, you and I are set free. Because Jesus willingly went to his death, you and I will live forever with him in heaven.
That's the kind of Savior Jesus is: He didn't come to entertain you, but to save you. He didn't come to make this life better, but to give you eternal life way better than anything you can imagine here. He didn't come to make you happy, but to make you joyful—even in the face of persecution and misery and pain—because you know your sins are forgiven and you will be with him in heaven one day.
How ironic! Herod wanted to see Jesus and though Jesus stood physically before him, he never saw the Savior that he was. And how ironic that you and I who, being removed by 2,000 years, cannot see Jesus physically, but see him more clearly than Herod ever did!
Out of love for Herod and Pilate and you and me, Jesus chose the cross. Now, I implore you: choose Jesus over entertainment. No, it's not wrong to watch TV or a movie from time to time, but not at the expense of time in the Word. Come to church more often. Stay for Bible Class. Go home and read the Word there. Read a devotion book. And as you go to the Word, there you will see Jesus—your Savior from sin.
As you leave here tonight, rejoice, not just that you had a delicious bacon-themed dinner, not just that you got to see your friends again, but that you got to see Jesus, your Savior from every sin. And renew your commitment to see him for who he is again and again. Just like Herod, we too want to see Jesus. Unlike Herod, we see him for who he is: our Savior—not from boredom, not from sickness, not from suffering—but from sin, from death, and from hell. Yes, rejoice, dear friends, that we do see Jesus! In his name and by his work, amen.