The figure of King Herod in the 1973 version of Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the most intriguing. He’s a jovial and dismissive character that is so caught up in pursuing his own pleasure that he doesn’t take anything seriously. In some ways he is similar to Pilate in wondering who Jesus is and why people are so riled about him, but he also stands in stark contrast to Pilate. Pilate didn’t believe in Jesus’ power, but he took him seriously. To Herod, the entire ordeal is treated as a joke. He doesn’t even bother questioning Jesus, instead he mocks him and has fun at Jesus’ expense. When Jesus doesn’t react to the mocking, Herod grows furious and drives him away.
There are times when we might encounter a Herod in our daily live, someone who is derisive and contemptuous about our faith, but the real danger is the Herod in our hearts. That Herod is the most dangerous to our souls. That Herod is the one that derides people we don’t even know, people like politicians and celebrities, and even people we do know, like coworkers and classmates. There’s even a really nasty strain of Herodism that attacks people who we are supposed to be in fellowship with. That Herod makes snide remarks when a Catholic kneels before a depiction of a saint, rosary in hand. Or, when a Pentecostal begins speaking in tongues Herod dismisses them as crazy. Herod declaims the use of rock music and smoke machines during worship and doesn’t even give Jehovah’s Witnesses the time of day, writing all of them off as ridiculous and worthy of ridicule.
Now I’m not saying that there aren’t important doctrinal, theological and external differences between the various strains of Christianity. Those differences exist and are worthwhile to learn about and discuss. However, if we get into the habit of pompously bullying other Christians, then we are no better than Herod. Herod is our worst instinct of arrogance and pride, one that refuses to learn about another and would rather make fun of people we don’t agree with rather than approach them in a serious way. Herod is the worst of us and can come out against anyone at any time. The only way to overcome Herod is to be humble, to see the dignity and worth in another, to see Christ in another.
Lord, deliver us from Herod, make us more like you. Amen.