When Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, heard about everything Jesus was doing, he was puzzled. Some were saying that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead. Others thought Jesus was Elijah or one of the other prophets risen from the dead. “I beheaded John,” Herod said, “so who is this man about whom I hear such stories?” And he kept trying to see Him.Luke 9:7-9
It may be a short little segment but it is very interesting and highly significant to Luke’s story in terms of the bigger picture. In forms an interlude between the departure of the disciples on assignment and their return again. The focus question in all of this is “who is the man of whom I hear such things?” It is a theme that Luke will continue further. Watch for it. It is significant too that it is Herod Antipas who is the mouthpiece of this debate. If any one should know about Jesus, he should. Herod Antipas was the Tetrach of Galilee and Perea (or Governor of a fourth of a kingdom). Jesus and now the disciples have been ministering in his sphere of influence. You can bet he had been made aware of Jesus ministry and no doubt some of this interest on Herod’s part was generated from what the disciples are now doing as well. Literally the text says, Herod heard “all that was done”. This can mean both what Jesus had been doing and what the disciples were now doing. No doubt when the disciples talked and preached about Jesus, the story that went around magnified Jesus, even though at this time it was actually the disciples who were conducting the ministry and preaching in Jesus’ name.
Herod was puzzled or at a loss to explain what is going on and he endeavoured to check it out for himself. He indeed kept trying to see Jesus. To have a personal encounter with Him to ascertain if the rumours were true or not. Even though he kept trying to meet Jesus he did not succeed until Pilate referred Jesus to him to judge His case. (Luke 23:6-12). The reason why Herod is keen to determine who Jesus is because he has received all these rumours. He had had a personal encounter with John the Baptist before. If Herod could only meet Jesus he would know whether this was John the Baptist or not. He was very familiar with John. He had met him before and had been responsible for his death. This miracle worker couldn’t be John because he (Herod) had had him beheaded. He just needed to see Him to make sure.
Rumour was rife and there were numbers of alternatives from what people were saying which explained who this One was.
- He was John the Baptist raised from among the dead. People believed that God could bring a person back from the dead. Maybe John the Baptist had been resurrected. The comparison with John suggests that there were similarities between the preaching of Jesus and the preaching of John. After all John had been designated as the forerunner to the Messiah. But nowhere in Scripture are there any miracles attributed to John. Nevertheless his fame had gone before him. Jesus had said there is was no one greater in the kingdom of God than John. Maybe it was him.
- He was Elijah appeared again. The verb appeared is interesting because Elijah couldn’t be resurrected from the dead because he didn’t die. He was taken up. Note that the rumour was he had APPEARED again. Elijah was expected as an “eschatological prophet”, one who would appear again in the end times. So he was a prime candidate. Also he was known for his miracles the first time so everything fitted together well. Maybe it was him.
- He was one of the Old Testament prophets. Here the reference is vague. He could have been one of many. In this case we return again to the use of the word risen from the dead. Unlike Elijah who was taken up, all the other Old Testament prophets had died and so needed some resurrection help to come back. The most likely options were Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah even Samuel. But of all of these the most likely was Moses. Again reputed to be coming back again. Another eschatological prophet and one who did miracles when he was alive. But the rumour mongers were not convinced enough to name him. Maybe it was . . .
I feel Herod’s major concern and overriding fear was that John was back from dead. “But he couldn’t be. I had his head taken off.” Clearly Herod’s number one purpose in seeing John was to get a look at him and put his mind at rest. It couldn’t be him could it? Surely not.
Aside from all the speculation, Luke is using these speculations and Herod’s question to focus the story as to who this One is. Keep that in mind as we proceed over the next pericopes. Luke is an organized writer. It is all connected.
Elijah outran a chariot then lay exhausted running from a woman Why? There’s no strength for reverse.Paul Scanlon
Did you know that Moses must have passed through New Zealand on his way to the promised land. Because he suffered from Moa bites. (For those who don’t get it – the moa is an extinct bird that lived in NZ cf Moabites, the people group.)Ian Vail
John’s preaching offended powerful people, but he kept right on saying it which led to his death. Would you let popular opinion stop you?Ian Vail
Daniel prayed three times a day. His prayer life was so predictable that his enemies used it to trap him. How is your prayer life?Ian Vail
If you were on trial for your faith, is there enough evidence to convict you?Ian Vail
Sometimes you don’t need to give someone a reason to dislike you; they just do it out of their own insecurity!Rick Godwin