Mike Seidl ’06

There is a curious detail that appears only in the Passion narrative of Luke, and for some years, I have tried to understand it.

After arresting Jesus, the elders, chief priests, and scribes brought him before Pontius Pilate, accusing him of subverting Caesar’s authority. Pilate was not convinced of Jesus’s guilt and, seemingly with relief, handed him over to Herod Antipas, the ruler of Jesus’s home district of Galilee, who was visiting Jerusalem at the time. Herod was curious about Jesus and wanted him to perform a sign. Ultimately disappointed by Jesus’s silence and inaction, Herod scorned him, mocked him, and returned him to Pilate. That day—and this is the curious detail—“Herod and Pilate became friends… even though they had been enemies formerly.”

What brought about this sudden friendship? How did the simple exchange of a prisoner overcome their prior enmity? Reflecting upon this detail, one possibility seems most likely to me. These two political men bonded over their common enemy, this inconvenient and vexing man, and they bonded in their self-assured satisfaction at having power over him. Such is the way of political men like Herod and Pilate.

How different is the way of Jesus! When he came to the place called the Skull, Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross, not in a gesture of enmity but an embrace of the whole world. He did not utter words of scorn or mockery or condemnation but instead pleaded, “Father, forgive them.” He promised that the good thief would be with him in Paradise, for he is not a power over others but a power for others. Indeed, for us, through the cross, Jesus overpowered enmity and condemnation and sin and even death.

Hail the cross, our only hope!