This Week's Focus Passage

Herod and Pilate Became Friends With Each Other That Very Day

Focus Passage: Luke 23:12

‘And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day.’

Of all the Herods, Herod Antipas figures most prominently in the N.T, for he was the tetrarch over Galilee and Perea, the two areas in which John the Baptizer and Christ had most of their ministry. Antipas, who was evidently given the dynastic title of Herod by the Roman emperor in A.D. 6, was still tetrarch of Galilee some twenty years later when the emperor Tiberius appointed Pontius Pilate as Roman procurator of Judea, the fifth such governor. Thus Providence had placed them together in Judea to be partners in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, later testified in the prayer recorded in Acts 4:27, ‘for of a truth in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy council foreordained to come to pass.’

We are not informed as to any reason why Herod and Pilate were not friends before this collaborative effort to deal with this ‘King of the Jews.’ Some writers have posited that Herod was likely ‘holding a grudge’ against the Roman governor for what is reported of by Luke in his gospel account, 13:1. We are told in that account that ‘there were some present,’ among the multitudes who were listening to the teaching of Christ, ‘at that very season who told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.’ Hendriksen shares with us the concept ‘that these men from Galiliee were zealots, members of a nationalistic party that was openly and aggressively opposed to Roman rule.’ But as Hendricksen himself allows, it is only theory. The point to be noticed is, however, that they were Galileans. Herod was tetrarch of Galilee. It is very likely that, even if these men were guilty of some crime, that he would want to judge them himself. Pilate may have been appealing to that damaged pride in Herod by sending him this Galilean named Jesus to him for judgment. Whatever were the particular circumstances, these two men who truly had little in common other than pride, became friends that very day. What an unholy alliance we have here.

Such alliances are not at all uncommon, nor surprising among politicians and also among businessmen and yes, churchmen. The foundation of this evil is, of course, pragmatism; the policy that ‘whatever works, do it.’ Yes, make every attempt to cover your actions with some guise of respectability if you can, but the main thing is the goal in view; ‘Do whatever it takes!’ This accounts for the many historical bedfellows that we can point to over the span of human history. In our text, it is Herod and Pilate: a Jewish tetrarch and a Roman governor. But, what about our days; what about the 21st century; the 20th century, and even before that?

What about Zionism, and its’ strange bedfellow, Christian Zionism? What exactly is Zionism, anyway? The following definition is offered:

“A Jewish nationalism movement with the goal of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine… the face of persistent anti-Semitism, Theodore Herzl advocated a Jewish state in Palestine. He held the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897. After World War I the movement picked up momentum with the issuing of the Balfour Declaration. The Jewish population in Palestine increased from 90,000 in 1914 to 238,000 in 1933.The Arab population resisted Zionism, and the British tried unsuccessfully to reconcile Jewish and Arab demands. Zionism achieved its goal with the creation of Israel in 1948.”

And, as they say, the rest is history. The Arab population continues to resist what they consider an intrusion into their land. The British tried unsuccessfully to reconcile Jewish and Arab demands, and so it continues with other countries—most notably, the United States—trying unsuccessfully to reconcile these parties.

Why has it become such a huge matter for the U.S.? Why is America so extremely concerned about this little Jewish nation in the Middle East? Given the outpouring of sympathy from large segments of the Christian community in this country, it is very hard to overlook the connection between Dispensationalism and the Promised Land. Evolving from a theology that teaches that the Lord will bless those that bless the seed of Abraham; from Genesis 12:3, ‘and I will bless them that bless thee,’ they believe that it is their biblical responsibility to support Israel. This, it seems, is what constitutes Christian Zionism. We do not question the motives of these individuals, but, as one has recently well stated:

‘Many well-intentioned evangelical leaders distort these promises to Abraham and dishonor Christ and his church by classifying Abraham as “Jewish” and by referring these promises to unbelievers who profess to be Abraham’s physical offspring. Official expressions of Judaism deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Furthermore, by interpreting God’s threat to curse those who do not bless Abraham’s seed (Gen. 12:3a) as referring to the failure to support his unbelieving physical seed, they lay the church under false guilt and bondage if it does not support the state of Israel. The cause of Zionism has to be championed on other grounds than God’s promises to Abraham.’

We are forced to inquire with Paul, ‘What concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever?’ 2 Corinthians 6:15. We are of the persuasion that many Jews will be brought to Christ, but it will be by falling down before him as Saul of Tarsus did so many years ago. When Christ foretold the destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70), He told His people to flee when they see these things coming; He said nothing about providing arms to them, or political support of any kind. Speaking of the ‘New Israel, we agree that, ‘The eternal nature of this kingdom cannot be material, because David’s political throne and dominion perished, but his spiritual kingdom is and will be forever on earth.’

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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