What’s Up With This Tetrarch?

Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again.  Herod said, “I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see Him.  (Luke 9:7-9 NASB)

A detail in Luke but not in the others (not in this way anyway) is this brief parenthetical note about Herod’s son, the tetrarch.  He was one of four brothers who were given regions around Palestine to rule, but not exactly a “kingdom”.  It’s an odd account, and I wonder what God was intending to inspire such a detail, and what Luke was intending to include it. (and no, I’m not going to discuss inspiration, so you’re safe to read on)

This regional ruler hears of Jesus, and hears all sorts of theories about who He is.  Herod doesn’t know what to think, but he is curious how this guy is so bold to run around his territory after he had John the Baptist beheaded.  I learn a few things about this tetrarch and myself from this passage, but I still don’t know why this parenthesis is here.

First off, I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the title itself isn’t much of a appellation to aspire to.  I think in a sense the term tetrarch was used derisively.  Who would want to be known as “head of a fourth”?  It’s used to differentiate which Herod is being referred to (as opposed to “The Great”), but there are other ways.  Herod’s brothers don’t share the same moniker in their titles.  So I suspect that that Herod was no fan of this reference to himself.

Second, Herod does not believe in resurrection.  When people claim that John the Baptist has risen, his response is, disbelief because he had John the Baptist beheaded.  He knew he was dead, so he didn’t believe he would come back to life.  This left Herod in a rough position though.  He now really didn’t know who this Jesus could be since everyone around him seems to think some “blast from the past”, but he won’t accept resurrection.

Third, Herod’s power is limited by his pride.  He can’t see Jesus.  What, is Jesus hiding?  Is Jesus too fast for him to get to once Herod knows where He is?  Or are all the usual methods of getting Jesus’ attention failing, and Herod won’t go see Jesus himself?  Does Herod have the power and authority to see Jesus?  As tetrarch, I would think so, as long as  Jesus was in his “fourth”.  But he doesn’t.  He doesn’t seem willing or able to go see Jesus.

In line with the title, fourth, Herod hears the gossip about Jesus, but it doesn’t seem to be from people who actually know Him. Herod doesn’t seem to know anyone close to Jesus.  Galilee isn’t that big of a place that Herod wouldn’t be able to find out something from someone who knew Jesus better.  But it seems social status and municipal duties keep the two groups apart.  I wonder if the groups that followed Jesus were more lower class people than those with important “jobs and responsibilities”.  Crowds follow Jesus, just no one with any “clout” among the “movers and shakers” of the Galilean elite, whether secular or religious.

So my lesson is that I need to be much more aware of and care about what God thinks of me than people.  I need to be motivated by the resurrection.  If this is all there is, we’re doomed.  We’re not.  So get going.  We’re going someplace!  Third I can’t let pride keep me from Jesus, being available to Him, or being obedient.  Fourth, I need to be with Jesus’ people.  Without fellowship of fellow Christ-followers I will know nothing of Jesus.  Disagree if you like, but read Paul’s letters to churches carefully.  I’m not a “sacramental” believer, but I do believe in salvation being a corporate experience.

So help me out here.  What is your view through the knothole?

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6 thoughts on “What’s Up With This Tetrarch?

  1. “Without fellowship of fellow Christ-followers I will know nothing of Jesus.”

    This is a very interesting and true statement. I might actually write about it myself if you wouldn’t mind me quoting you.

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  2. Wow, you’ve picked up on quite a curious set of verses. They are definitely there for a purpose.
    It’s astonishing, given the zealousness with which this Herod’s father attempted to rid himself of “this man about whom [he] hears such things” – even committing infanticide, his son didn’t connect the dots.

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    1. It’s one of the ironies of Scripture, how many clues were missed by everyone. But don’t we have the same 20/20 hindsight? We can be so good at seeing what others miss, but not so hot at recognizing the obvious thing our Master does right before our eyes. I’m so dumb sometimes!

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