Herod Antipas at the time of Jesus – A Clash of Kingdoms
Herod Antipas was the ruler of the Galilee region at the time of Jesus. He represented supreme local power, ruling for over four decades. Antipas named his capital city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee “Tiberias” in honor of the Roman Caesar at the time of Jesus.
Jesus of Nazareth came on the scene and gained a following in a very short time — perhaps slightly over 3 years. Herod Antipas was, at the very least, annoyed and probably even a bit scared of the following that Jesus accumulated. It didn’t help matters that Jesus had a habit of using Antipas — or people like him — as negative illustrations in his teachings.
Herod Antipas at the time of Jesus – A Target for Teaching
In the Gospels, Jesus made thinly veiled statements that he was the true leader of Israel, while implying that Herod Antipas was merely a flawed, mortal ruler, appointed by men. Jesus once warned his followers to beware of the “leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15). In so doing, he was warning the people to beware the idols, hypocrisy, and lies spreading from the Roman culture, which Antipas had incorporated into the city he built at Tiberias.
Jesus also compared Herod Antipas to a “broken reed shaking in the wind” and one who wears “soft clothing” and lives in a “luxurious royal palace” (Luke 7:24-25). Some of the coins that Antipas minted had a bent reed surrounded by his name and title. In referring to him as a reed shaking in the wind, Jesus was perhaps implying that he was weak and easily swayed by Roman influence. Whatever Jesus was implying, it was not complimentary. These were covert “digs” against Herod Antipas at the time of Jesus.
Once, Jesus referred to Herod Antipas as a fox, referencing his continual “hunting” of Jesus (Luke 13:31-35). Antipas had attempted to track Jesus down – like he had John the Baptizer — but had been unsuccessful (Luke 23:8).
Later, Herod Antipas got paranoid that Jesus was actually John the Baptizer resurrected from the dead (Matthew 14:2). Herod continued the hunt for Jesus, but was unsuccessful. In the end, the first and only meeting between Herod Antipas and Jesus of Nazareth came at the trial of Jesus in Jerusalem (Luke 23).