“Herod said…’but who is this about whom I hear such things?'”
In today’s gospel, King Herod is the poster boy for letting a narrow perspective cloud important judgment. (Not that we can relate… right?).
He is, in a word, perplexed.
Gossip about the disciples has gone viral — their works and miracles and prophesies about this Jesus dude — and Herod is not impressed. Furthermore, he’s confused. The stories are all twisted, with accounts that the man behind the craziness [Jesus] is a prophet or even John the Baptist. Herod knows that certainly isn’t true; he personally just had John killed in a most appalling fashion. Herod needs to get to the bottom of this mayhem, which is why “he sought to see Him.”
But when it comes down to it, it’s Herod’s limited perspective that trips him up most. No matter how hard he searches, he’s never really going to see Jesus. He’s never going to figure out the truth of who Jesus is. Why? Because he can’t bring himself to allow for such a truth. Especially with the claims of Jesus being some kind of king. Nowhere in Herod’s narrow perspective is there room for a king who doesn’t live in a palace, eat from a silver platter, or gain power through military conquest. And because King Herod thinks the world revolves around himself, he believes this Jesus guy is an obvious threat to his job security. It doesn’t even register that the words “my kingdom is not of this world” might mean exactly that: that Jesus’s power doesn’t come from armies, his prestige doesn’t come from gilded living quarters, and his reign is certainly not one to be gained by usurping any earthen ruler. But Herod’s life reflects the vanity of vanities described in the first reading, where everything is ultimately empty and nothing is new under the sun. So it’s not even on his radar that Jesus might be something new; an exception to this earthly vanity.
It’s a shame that Herod couldn’t get past that to see the incredible richness of the big picture, isn’t it? Not only would he have saved himself a lot of anxiety trying to “defend” his rule from Jesus, but he probably would’ve gained a lot of insight (and dare I say, a little faith?) by broadening his perspective and withholding initial judgment. He might have even learned that Jesus was actually here to save him instead of being “out to get him.”
Sometimes, like Herod, we’d rather accept gossip and a small world view over the pursuit of truth. We might keep our perspective narrow and our judgment firm when it comes to things (and people) we don’t like or understand.
What if we withheld our snap judgments today? What if we opened our minds and our hearts to see how Jesus is reaching out to us through others? What ‘unallowed’ truths might we finally discover?
Megan Hjelmstad is a wife, mom, writer and former soldier whose real passion is equal parts faith and chocolate. You can find out more about her here.