Dear Christian friends,
How much time do you spend being entertained? How much money do you spend being entertained? I read an article about the people of France who have a thirty five hour work week. Their president is asking the nation to reconsider and add hours to make the nation more productive in the global economy. He is getting a lot of push back from unions. There are 168 hours in a week. They work 35. They have 133 hours to fill. The 133 must be filled somehow and some way. That’s why the entertainment industry is such a multi-million dollar industry.
I am not sure that many here only put in a forty hour week. Maybe that’s what you get paid for, but you bring work home. Many of you travel for your company. That’s not your own time. Many simply put in hours way beyond what you perhaps even signed up for. I am sure that many of you put in twelve fourteen hours a day. So what do you do when you call it a day? Work out? Maybe you are so dead tired you just want to go to bed. Maybe you find your Lazy Boy and just get lost in it and find the remote and do a bit of channel surfing.
This year during Lent, we’re focusing on the ironies of the passion. Tonight, Herod Antipas, a man who could do almost anything he wanted, had an unfulfilled desire for entertainment: He had been wanting to see Jesus.
Luke says, “From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort.”Jesus led prostitutes and tax collectors to repent, and then he warmed their hearts with God’s forgiving love. Jesus’ preaching made the crowds hang on his every word. When he was only 12 years old, Jesus amazed the great teachers of the law with his knowledge of God’s Word. Herod had been hearing all about him and the things that he was doing. Now Herod wanted to see Jesus do a miracle that he could witness.
First of all, who is this Herod? You do need a scorecard to keep all the Herod’s straight mentioned in the Bible. Perhaps when we think of Herod we identify him as the villain of the Christmas story, the one who killed the male babies two and younger in the city of Bethlehem. That was King Herod the Great. The Lord took him out of the picture not long after that cruel and heartless act.
This man was his son, Herod Antipas. Antipas only ruled Galilee, the northern part of Israel and a territory across the Jordan River called Perea. His brother, Archelaus, had reigned in Jerusalem for ten years, but the Romans tossed him out and put in their own governor. At this time, that man was the infamous Pontius Pilate.
He had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. While he was there, one of his political rivals, Pontius Pilate, sent Jesus to him. Herod was delighted because for a long time he had wanted to see Jesus.
There was a lot of political intrigue and sin and even incest that ran through the Herod family, Herod Antipas, like his father and brothers was not a nice man.
Now, by itself that wouldn’t be ironic, because Jesus came to reclaim sinners. God only knew the sin, the gross sins that Herod Antipas had been guilty of, but Herod didn’t want to see Jesus so that his guilty conscience could have peace. He did not want to see him as the one who could bring him forgiveness for a life marked by adultery and blood-thirstiness, he wanted to see this miracle worker do a miracle. He really only wanted to be entertained.
That shouldn’t surprise us. People with freedom and money get bored very easily. Why do you think TV and sports and video games are multi-billion dollar industries? Why do you think there are opportunities to vacation in some very exotic places to kill time or toss dollars? People camp out overnight to be the first in line for the new I-phone and the entertainment value it brings.
God had come to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, but God hid his glory and power in the body of the man who stood bound before this petty king. God who stood there in that body that was already bruised and bloodied would be dead before that day was over. God had come in the person of Jesus to save, but Herod completely missed the point.
I am sure that is why we are here tonight, but do we always see him by faith as the one who comes to us in his word. Do we always see him as the one who gives himself to us when we receive the Lord’s Supper? Are we satisfied with the greatest miracle in all of history when he proved that he was the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead, or do we want something else when we come to church?
Do we think church should be more entertaining? Are we like spoiled children who want to be wowed and awed and spoon-fed? The truth is, being Jesus’ disciple, is work! It takes discipline to come and worship regularly. It takes discipline to pay attention in church. It takes commitment to study and grow and understand the difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and what our society passes off as spirituality. We live in a culture that has much wealth, much free time, and many entertainment opportunities that compete with listening to the simple truths of God’s Word and the worship of our God. Are we turning into little Herods who look to be entertained everywhere we go – even church?
We have no defense for hearts that aren’t committed to hearing the Word of God. We can make no excuse for minds that wander and wish we could be doing something more entertaining than to be in church to listen God’s Word. The entertainment culture we live in is that it becomes more important than what is really important. Herod’s sin blinded him. He put entertainment ahead of the gift God gave the world. Herod had been wanting to see Jesus. God wanted to show him his Savior.
Luke says, “He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” In ancient times, kings kept wise men at their courts. Herod thought Jesus could answer all the hard questions his wise men couldn’t, but Jesus wouldn’t play ball. While Herod was trying to enjoy his prisoner, the leaders of the Jews were there “vehemently accusing him.” It was surely chaos.
Why? Maybe they were afraid that Jesus would do a miracle and Herod would have second thoughts and really get more interested in him. But they didn’t need to worry. Jesus had no intention of showing Herod any miracles that day. He would never use his power for selfish reasons or to show off. So Herod did what all spoiled children and certain presidential candidates do when they get bored. They begin to insult. Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus. They hung a royal robe over his shoulders and ridiculed him. And then Herod sent Jesus away without ever understanding to whom he had been speaking.
Unfortunately, Herod, like Pontius Pilate, never saw who Jesus was. Neither man made a real effort to find out. So both men missed their Savior that day. They are regretting it to this day as they suffer from the horrible mistakes they made when the Savior stood in front of them.
Are we ever like these men where we lamented the fact that we blew an opportunity to know Jesus more and our minds were truly elsewhere? Do we ever walk away from this building thinking the best thing that happened here was that we got to see some people we like? Or do we go away with exactly the opposite feeling that we just don’t feel close to any of the people there? When all is said and done the best part – meeting Jesus in Word and Sacrament was just not that big a deal. Shame on you! Shame on me! Missed opportunities!
In 1269 AD Kublai Khan sent a request from Peking to Rome for "a hundred wise men of the Christian religion...And so I shall be baptized, and when I shall be baptized all my baron and great men will be baptized, and their subjects baptized, and so there will be more Christian here than there are in your parts." The Mongols were then wavering in the choice of a religion. It might have been, as Kublai forecast, the greatest mass religious movement the world has ever seen. The history of all Asia would have been changed. But what actually happened? Pope Gregory X answered by sending two Dominican friars. They got as far as Armenia, could endure no longer and returned home. So passed one of if not the greatest mission opportunity in the history of the church. A blown opportunity!
Yet at the end of the day when the mob began taking Jesus into custody in the Garden, by the end of the day of the betrayal by Jesus’ own, every sin of every believer and even of every unbeliever was paid for. Jesus made sure of it all. As a result there is freedom; there is peace; there is pardon.
Jesus gives us a lot more than a few moments of entertainment. He gives us freedom from guilt and shame. Jesus gives us the promise of eternity.