Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.
Of course Herod was perplexed. Those of great wealth and influence often have a hard time understanding willing dependence. In the scene just prior, Jesus sent out his disciples to teach and heal, equipping them with his power and charging them to rely on the generosity of others. Their power, that is, is inextricably linked to their vulnerability. And Herod – who has crafted an entire life around gaining, securing and keeping power by influence, political favors, and fear – cannot even begin to understand power born of vulnerability and dependence.
Moreover, Jesus is just similar enough to John – speaking truth to power, preaching fearlessly, surrounding himself with outcasts – that people have been saying that perhaps Jesus is John returned from the dead. Others, noting Jesus’ similarity to the prophets of old, have wondered if he himself might be a prophet, perhaps even Elijah – the one prophet who was taken to heaven before he died and foretold to return before the coming of the messiah.
And so Herod is perplexed…and curious. He wants to see Jesus, perhaps just to witness firsthand this prophetic oddity, or to meet this populist celebrity, or to compare him with John, the one he beheaded. We don’t know. What we do know is that Herod is perplexed by Jesus’ willing dependence and curious about who this would-be prophet is.
I wonder how many of those around us might also be perplexed…both by Jesus and his followers…and interested in discovering more. A co-worker, classmate, friend, or sibling – they might have all kinds of reasons for wanting to know more about Jesus. We won’t know. But we can listen to their questions. We can tell them what we know of Jesus. We can invite them to church to learn more and maybe, just maybe, see the Lord. Might this be what evangelism really is? Not asking people if they know where they’re going after death, not cramming our faith down their throats, not threatening them with eternal damnation. Rather, evangelism might simply be being attentive to the curiosity of others about God, Jesus, and faith and being willing first to listen and then to share what we know. That’s all.
Prayer: Dear God, remind us that there are all kinds of people who are curious about Jesus and equip and embolden us to share what we know. In Jesus’ name, Amen.