Herod and me: Triangulating God

By Joel A. Hess

Herod the Great might be considered the most evil character in the Holy Scriptures. Evil maybe, but stupid no! Perhaps one of the brilliant talents of Herod the Great was his uncanny ability to play both sides of a game. In order to keep his kingship of Palestine, he needed to keep both Rome and the Jews happy. He practically invented the fine political art of triangulation.

His son didn’t fall far from the tree. Of course, he became famous for killing John the Baptist and making fun of Jesus before He was crucified. Still, although not near as successful, he too enjoyed his dad’s political ability of playing both sides of the fence.

In chapter 6 of His gospel, Mark tells us that Herod actually liked John. This might surprise us since John publicly shamed Herod because he stole his brother’s wife and even married her. The mistress Herodius actually wanted John dead. Instead, Herod threw him in jail.

Because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.”

So often we like to place Herod in the total evil Hitler realm. But Herod probably thinks he is being respectful, maybe even good! He plays both sides. He obeys his wife, but he doesn’t have John killed. Did he think he could balance good works and bad works? Was he afraid of God and his wife? He thought he could play a little balancing act and make both happy.

He doesn’t sound that evil at all. No, he kind of sounds like you and me. Notice how Herod actually continued to listen to John in jail. He actually liked listening to him. Does that sound like someone you know? It sounds like the typical Christian. We love to listen to God’s Word. We nod our head. We know He’s right. But we put God in a cage. Then we go and hear him when we want on Sunday. We leave Him there and go on are merry way. We like to think we can have it both ways, pleasing God and pleasing our desires and the world.

We think we can cage God, triangulate him and the world. We think we can manage sin; match a bad deed with a good work. It actually can be quite stressful.

But it always comes to a head. It did for Herod. Herodius wasn’t actually happy with John in jail. She wanted it all! That’s how our desires are. That’s how the gods of this world are.

Herod ends up having to make a choice: John or his wife. His sin or God’s Word. The gods of the world or the God of heaven above. Herod, who put John in jail, was in quite a bind himself.

We know what happened. Oh, he was sad. He probably cried and made a big show of it. But in the end, he had John killed. You can only play both sides for so long. I’ll bet you have gotten burned yourself playing this game.

You can’t cage God. Herod killed John, but the Word was alive and well. In fact, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Herod heard about it and was a little scared.

In the end, mankind is the one in prison. Bound to our sin, to shame, to fear, to death. Many Christians are bound to playing this Herod game, trying to please God and man, trying to match bad deeds with good ones.

Poor Herod, John wasn’t just trying to make him feel bad about himself. John called Herod to repent, but also to enjoy total and complete forgiveness! John actually pointed to the one came to free Herod and all of us: Jesus!

You can’t put God in a cage. Thank God! You can kill His prophets, but God keeps sending more. God’s so crazy that even though they killed John He still sent Jesus!

With the words, “I forgive you,” Jesus releases you of all your sins. With His words, He gives us resurrection and eternal LIFE. No matter what, you are free! Whether you are stuck in prison like John, struggling with sin, or facing death itself, you are free and will be free forever.