7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead;
8 And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again.
9 And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him.
1901 ASV Translation:
7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done: and he was much perplexed, because that it was said by some, that John was risen from the dead;
8 and by some, that Elijah had appeared; and by others, that one of the old prophets was risen again.
9 And Herod said, John I beheaded: but who is this, about whom I hear such things? And he sought to see him.
I. The Herodian Reaction.
A. This "Herod" was Antipas who ruled from 4 B.C. until 39 A.D. when, according to Acts 12:23, he was smitten by the angel of God "because he gave not God the glory" and was "eaten of worms" and died. It is interesting that he beheaded John and continued to live, but when he was acclaimed as "a god", he was killed. Perhaps this was an example of "the straw that broke the camel's back" when it comes to the patience of God (even with Him, there is an end to the exercise of patience).
1. This "Herod" had "Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward" in his "circle" (Luke 8:3) and "had been brought up with" a certain Manaen who was a leading light in the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1). The implications here are that "Herod" was not without those who could have served him as "lights" to The Way and this may well have been the reason for the end of God's patience with the man.
2. This "Herod" is called by Luke "the tetrarch" only four times (3:1; 3:19;9:7 and Acts 13:1). The earliest reference was a deliberate "timing" issue for Luke's introduction of the word of God through John the son of Zacharias. The next reference focuses upon his great evils, including imprisoning this John. The third reference is our current text, and the last is the reference to his boyhood companion, Manaen. It is interesting that "the tetrarch" comes into play at the points where "reactions to special revelation" is the particular focus. The issue of "the tetrarch" is the issue of the exercise of "ruling authority". Thus, there is a link between the man's "function" and his "responsibility" toward God. The Acts 13:1 text is particularly interesting in that the characterization of Herod as "the tetrarch" is totally unnecessary because the immediate context (the latter verses of Acts 12) records the death of the man and its cause(s). In other words, Herod is in the midst of this context, yet he is called "the tetrarch" when Manaen is identified as his boyhood companion. Thus, it is obvious that Luke is using "the tetrarch" in a way so as to tie themes together for his readers. There are three: the responsibility that comes with the authority to rule, the "coming of the word of God", and "the man's reaction" to that word.
B. Luke's focus is upon this "reaction": he, Luke says, was "perplexed".
1. The word translated "perplexed" is a word found only in Luke's writings (Luke 9:7 and 24:4 and Acts 2:12; 5:24; and 10:17). Its meaning, derived from the contexts wherein it is used, is that the one who is "perplexed" is confronted with a situation where questions exist without answers (at least the "perplexed" do not have them).
2. Given Luke's focus upon "the tetrarch's" responsibility/reactions, he may well be telling his reader that "perplexity" is more a matter of the "heart" than of the mind's interactions with the facts of the situation.
C. The basis for Herod's perplexity was the rumors as to Jesus' identity in respect to His doctrine.
1. John, whom Herod beheaded, was known, even by Herod, to be a prophet.
2. Elijah was known by everyone to be a prophet, but was particularly known as the forerunner of the Messianic Age.
3. "One of the ancient prophets arose" is simply the phrase that identifies the issue: the coming of the word of God and man's liability in the face of it if he rejects it.
D. At issue: Jesus' actions and reputation were so widely known that even the highest echelons of human "rule" were getting reports about Him.
1. This is, and has been, Luke's point all along: Paul's "this was not done in a corner" (Acts26:26) is a major thesis in terms of man's exposure to the Truth.
2. The revelation of Truth, from Luke's obvious effort (Luke 1:4), is a major factor in God's overall agenda. That the majority of people refuse to take it seriously is also a major reality that God does not/has not overruled. This raises this question: what difference does it make that the Truth is revealed in the face of vast-majority unbelief? The revelation of God in respect to this question is that God's plan has to do with "the elect" as a small-minority group who will inherit the Kingdom of God. But there is this: the Truth has not just "been revealed"; it has been massively established so that rejection is a beyond-obvious indicator of the impact that Sin makes in the heart/mind complex of created personalities.
3. That "faith" in the "Truth" is not fundamentally a result of overwhelming evidence is clear. But the presence of overwhelming evidence also argues for its place in the sun. One fact is clear: in that day every mouth that utters "excuses" or "counter arguments" will be shut. Evidence may not bring the submission of faith, but it will bring the Truth to light so that sinners will have absolutely nowhere to turn in their attempts to justify their unbelief.