THREE VERDICTS ON JESUS
King Herod heard about Jesus, for his name was known everywhere. He said, “John the Baptizer has risen from the dead. That is why these wonderful powers work through him.” Others said, “It is Elijah.” Others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the famous prophets.”
By this time news of Jesus had penetrated all over the country. The tale had reached the ears of Herod. The reason why he had not up to this time heard of Jesus may well be due to the fact that his official residence in Galilee was in Tiberias. Tiberias was largely a Gentile city, and, as far as we know, Jesus never set foot in it. But the mission of the Twelve had taken Jesus’ fame all over Galilee, so that his name was upon every lip. In this passage we have three verdicts upon Jesus.
(i) There is the verdict of a guilty conscience. Herod had been guilty of allowing the execution of John the Baptizer, and now he was haunted by what he had done. Whenever a man does an evil thing, the whole world becomes his enemy. Inwardly, he cannot command his thoughts; and, whenever he allows himself to think, his thoughts return to the wicked thing that he has done. No man can avoid living with himself; and when his inward self is an accusing self, life becomes intolerable. Outwardly, he lives in the fear that he will be found out and that some day the consequences of his evil deed will catch up on him.
Some time ago a convict escaped from a Glasgow prison. After forty-eight hours of liberty he was recaptured, cold and hungry and exhausted. He said that it was not worth it. “I didn’t have a minute,” he said. “Hunted, hunted all the time. You don’t have a chance. You can’t stop to eat. You can’t stop to sleep.”
Hunted–that is the word which so well describes the life of the man who has done some evil thing. When Herod heard of Jesus, the first thing that flashed into his mind was that this was John the Baptizer whom he had killed, come back to reckon with him. Because the sinning life is the haunted life, sin is never worth the cost.
(ii) There is the verdict of the nationalist. Some thought that this Jesus was Elijah come again. The Jews waited for the Messiah. There were many ideas about the Messiah, but the commonest of all was that he would be a conquering king who would first give the Jews back their liberty and who would then lead them on a triumphant campaign throughout the world. It was an essential part of that belief that, before the coming of the Messiah, Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, would come again to be his herald and his forerunner. Even to this day, when the Jews celebrate the Passover Feast, they leave at the table an empty chair called Elijah’s chair. They place it there with a glass of wine before it, and at one part of their service they go to the door and fling it wide open that Elijah may come in and bring at last the long-awaited news that the Messiah has come.
This is the verdict of the man who desires to find in Jesus the realization of his own ambitions. He thinks of Jesus, not as someone to whom he must submit and whom he must obey; he thinks of Jesus as someone he can use. Such a man thinks more of his own ambitions than of the will of God.
(iii) There is the verdict of the man who is waiting for the voice of God. There were those who saw in Jesus a prophet. In those days the Jews were pathetically conscious that for three hundred years the voice of prophecy had been silent. They had listened to the arguments and the legal disputations of the Rabbis; they had listened to the moral lectures of the synagogue; but it was three long centuries since they had listened to a voice which proclaimed, “Thus saith the Lord.” Men in those days were listening for the authentic voice of God–and in Jesus they heard it. It is true that Jesus was more than a prophet. He did not bring only the voice of God. He brought to men the very power and the very life and the very being of God. But those who saw in Jesus a prophet were at least more right than the conscience-stricken Herod and the expectant nationalists. If they had got that length in their thoughts of Jesus, it was not impossible that they might take the further step and see in him the Son of God.
Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MARK
Back to: Barclay’s Commentary