Stay My Course!
LUKE 23:1-12 MARK 6:14-29
A DRAMA SERMON BY RENAE EXTRUM-FERNANDEZ, AND DOUGLAS NORRIS AS HEROD5
And now, live from the First United Methodist Church, the Renae Extrum-Fernandez Show!
Renae: Thank you! How are you doing this morning! Are you awake! You will be! This promises to be a great show. We really have something special for you today! We're going to keep with our Palm Sunday tradition, and bring you a show that will shed new light for all of us, on that pivotal event in human history: the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus of Nazareth. Today we're going to ask one of the questions that has been lingering for centuries. It's been on my mind, and I know it's been on yours. Why didn't Herod release Jesus the night he was brought before him, when Herod knew that Jesus was an innocent man? We'll get the answer to that and more, because today it's Herod on the Hot Seat! Will you please give a cordial welcome to our guest..Herod of Galilee (Pianist plays "King Herod" from Jesus Christ Superstar.) We welcome you, sir, to our Sunday morning show.
Herod: Thank you. It is my pleasure. Actually my name is Herod Antipas which distinguishes me from all the other Herods. I'm anxious to meet with you today and clear up some bad press I have received. I especially resent how I was portrayed in the musical, Jesus Christ, Superstar.
R: All right Herod Antipas, let's go to the heart of it. Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to you under arrest, and though you knew he was an innocent man, you didn't release him. You had the power, you had the authority...why didn't you set Jesus free?
H: That sneaky Pilate was trying to pawn Jesus off on me, that's why! When he learned that Jesus was a Galilean, he sent him to me because I was the Ruler of Galilee. I was quite incensed because Pilate and I had not been on the best of terms, but, ironically, after this incident we actually became friends. Pilate didn't want to deal with the controversial Jesus and was trying to get me to do his dirty work. When Jesus was brought before me, I was interested, having heard so much about him. I questioned him, tried to get him to talk to me, but he wouldn't reply. He just stood there, inviting condemnation if you ask me. He didn't even try to defend himself.
R: You already knew he was innocent, why didn't you free him?
H: I might have given him a chance; I might have freed him, and, again, I might not have. After all, I had the chief priests and scribes screaming in my ear, telling me what to do. If I decided for Jesus, I would have alienated the chief priests. If I decided against Jesus, I would have alienated his many followers in Galilee which was my territory. I suppose I could have been forthright and freed him. But, after all, he had called me "that old fox."
R: The way you tell it, you're the innocent victim here! Why would Jesus ever call you a fox?! Why do you think he said that?
H: Jesus was upset over my execution of John the Baptist. But, that wasn't my fault.
R: Now wait a minute! Correct me if I'm wrong here. John was beheaded by your order. Isn't that right?
H: I was tricked by my wife! She could not tolerate John the Baptist because he publicly criticized me for marrying her who had been married to my brother Philip. John irritated me too, but I did enjoy listening to him preach. He was a holy, righteous man, and I also did not want to offend his followers. But, I was tricked at my birthday party. My daughter danced beautifully. My guests were very pleased, and I was so delighted I told her publicly I would reward her with anything she wanted. Her mother put her up to it. Her mother told her to ask me for the head of John the Baptist. There, in front of my guests, how could I go back on my word?
R: Oh come on now! Now you're blaming the women!! We've heard that one before, haven't we, ladies? No, this is about your word Herod, and how much is your word worth when you did nothing to prevent Jesus, another innocent man, from being executed?
H: How dare you criticize me! I'll have you know I was a highly respected official of the Roman Empire. I was ruler of Galilee for 43 years, even longer than my father. My father, King Herod the Great, ruled for only 36 years.
R: Oohh! Do I detect a little father/son competition?
H: I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I loved and respected my father. He was a great king, with many notable accomplishments. Many magnificent palaces and durable fortresses were built by my father. He also had the Temple in Jerusalem refurbished.
R: That's your father, but what were some of your accomplishments?
H: I constructed a new city! It was named Tiberias and is still in existence. A beautiful city. Perhaps some of you have visited it.
R: I've heard of it, but I haven't had the pleasure. Anyone been there? Now, how big a city are we talking about here? Particularly, Herod, we'd like to know how many Jews lived there?
H: Actually I made a slight mistake. After the city was built, it was discovered we had built it over an ancient cemetery, and the Jews refused to live there! I'm embarrassed to say I had to import Gentiles to populate Tiberias.
R: Shades of Stephen King! Speaking of "kings", I understand your father was called King Herod, but you were never called king, were you?
H: I should have been! But, my father changed his will. In his will he named me his successor as king. But, by the time he died, he had added a codicil which named my brother Archelaus as king, and me, along with my brother Philip, just a provincial ruler. It wasn't fair. The three of us went to Rome to present our cases before Emperor Augustus, who was an old crony of my father's.
R: And what did the Emperor decide?
H: Augustus ruled in favor of the codicil and divided my father's kingdom into three territories, with the largest and most prominent going to Archelaus. I was given Galilee, but Archelaus was given Judea with his headquarters in Jerusalem. But, at least Augustus would not name him king. He said Archelaus would have to merit the title of king. Merit! Ha! It served him right! Not only was he never named king, Judea was taken away from him. After only six years, Emperor Augustus banished him. Archelaus tried to be tough, but the Jews sent a delegation to Rome to protest his tactics, and Augustus removed Archelaus. Served him right. Emperor Augustus should have then given me Jerusalem and named me king. Jerusalem should have remained with the Herod family. But, Augustus made it a Roman province and from then on, it had Roman governors, of whom Pontius Pilate was one.
R: That's an interesting story, but let's get back to the point. You were never given the title of King?
R: But, isn't it also true that your brother-in-law Agrippa was called king?
H: Why do you bring that up?? It was unfair, grossly unfair. I gave Agrippa his start. I appointed him as overseer of the markets in Tiberias. But, he wormed his way into a friendship with Caligula who, by that time, was Emperor of the Roman Empire. Oh, Agrippa was political. And Caligula appointed him as successor to my brother, Philip, and gave Agrippa the title of king. It was unfair!
R: Whine, whine, whine...so what did you do about it?
H: My wife, Herodias, and I went to Rome immediately to plead my case with Caligula.
R: Now it's Caligula's problem! So what happened then?
H: Is this necessary? Do you really need to know what happened?
R: Do we need to know? Herod, we need to know!
H: Not only did Emperor Caligula rule against me, he believed lies Agrippa told about me, and I was removed from my position. I was banished to what is now France. I lost everything. I don't understand it. I worked so hard. Can you imagine how difficult it is to live up to your father, especially when your father is King Herod the Great? I worked so hard, only to end my life in oblivion and disgrace. It doesn't make sense. Look at that Jesus. He wouldn't even fight for himself. He wouldn't even defend himself. He wouldn't even talk to me. He was executed like a common criminal, a nobody; yet you have gathered in his name today. Hundreds of you. You have built this magnificent cathedral in his name, and I don't have anything. I don't understand it.
R: Did you ever consider pursuing God's course instead of your own course?
H: What do you mean?
R: I mean, instead of trying to live up to your father and be a king, did you ever consider what might be God's course for your life?
H: What is God's course?
R: God's course is doing what is right, acting on behalf of all your people, rather than your own interests, and protecting the innocent from false charges and expedient executions. Herod Antipas, you pursued your own course. It was your choices that led you to oblivion and disgrace. But, there is another course. God's course is still open to you. It's still there for you to choose.
© 1992 Douglas I. Norris