Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, ‘John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he tried to see him.
Herod is puzzled, seriously puzzled. His infamous father, whom the world knows as Herod the Great, did not so much lose the plot as never picked it up in the first place. Herod Antipas, the Herod of this passage, isn’t so evil as to be the son of his father, as it were, but he is nonetheless party to the dysfunctionality of that infamous family.
He has a problem of identity. Not just his own, did he but realise it, but particularly that of this young Jewish rabbi that’s causing such a stir. There is a deal of gossip, as you might expect – this is surely John the Baptist. Herod has the most convincing of reasons for believing that not to be the case – he himself has had him executed. He’s going to have to see for himself what, or who, this is all about.
And he’s going to have the opportunity. We read, later on in this Gospel, that Pilate sends Jesus to appear before this Herod. But Herod is not able to satisfy his curiosity, even then, because Jesus gives no answer to his questions. Jesus will have realised that Herod will not understand in any case, because he is seriously out of his depth here. It’s not that Herod is unintelligent, or does not speak the language. It is just that his experience and attitudes have cut him off from any sort of intuitive grasp of what is really going on.
We’re sure we’ve got a grasp of what is happening, or does that confidence simply indicate the superficialities of our own perception? Perhaps we should devote more time and effort to our own “tuning in”.
Loving God, You have given us our identity, but we do not always understand it as it really is. You have given us your Son, as someone with whom we can identify. We have our families, with whom we share our identity. Lord, help us to clarify all the identities around us so that we truly know who we are, whom we love, whom we serve, and whom we are to follow to the ends of the earth. Amen