by David Morson
Before we begin our journey through Holy Week, day by day, I conclude some background to three other figures in the dramatic story of Jesus’ last week.
Herod Antipas is best known for ordering the beheading of John The Baptist, who had been a critic of Herod’s adultery with Herodias, his brother’s wife.
But other factors are important concerning his interest in Jesus. His father Herod the Great had been paranoid about the coming of a Messiah as we know from the Christmas stories relating to the Three Kings and the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. His anxiety was increased because he was deeply unpopular with Jewish people because he relied on Roman favour and protection to maintain his Kingship. Neither was he Jewish as he came from the province of Idumea.
When he died, the Romans ended the monarchical system and Herod’s family moved to Rome with the exception of Herod Antipas his younger son who was given rulership of Galilee and Perea in the North of Palestine by the Romans. So, Herod Antipas too owed his tenuous position to Rome and built his residence on the shores of Lake Galilee which he named Tiberius in honour of the new Emperor.
In the Passion narratives, it is only St Luke who mentions that once Pilate realised that Jesus came from Galilee, he tried to shift responsibility for Jesus by sending him to Herod Antipas who was in Jerusalem for the Passover.
We are told that he was intrigued to see Jesus as like his father he was deeply concerned about any new potential King. He requested a miracle, but Jesus remained silent and Herod mocked Him and sent Him back to Pilate.
Judas Iscariot who is known for his betrayal of Jesus was one of the twelve apostles. Tradition has it that he was responsible for finances in whatever form that took. We are not certain what made Judas betray Jesus but are told in Matthew’s Gospel that it followed from the incident when a woman anointed Jesus with some expensive ointment at Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper. We are told Judas went to the Chief Priests and was paid 30 pieces of silver to look out for an opportunity to betray Jesus. It is believed that when Judas left the Last Supper to tell the Jewish Authorities that Jesus would be in the Garden of Gethsemane, the other apostles may have assumed that he was distributing charity, but this is only surmise. Other theories relate to is name “Iscariot” which in Latin translates as “sicarius”. These literally were “dagger carriers” and referred to anti Roman terrorists, possibly Barabbas. Could Judas have wanted Jesus to prove He was the Messiah? No one really knows. However, we do know that Judas did not expect Jesus to be crucified as the result of his betrayal, because he tried to return the 30pieces of silver and hanged himself in remorse for what he had done.
Simon Of Cyrene is known as the man forced to help Jesus carry His cross. The Centurion in charge of the crucifixion was worried that Jesus might die before He reached Calvary. As the officer in charge, he was responsible to see the sentence carried out otherwise he could be subject to the same fate.
So Simon was chosen from the crowd of onlookers at random. Simon came from Cyrene in Libya. There was a synagogue in Jerusalem build by Cyrenian Jews and he was in the City like many other pilgrims with his two sons, Rufus and Alexander. Tradition has it that this experience greatly affected Simon and we are told in the Acts of the Apostles that on Pentecost Day the people of Cyrene were one of the first to believe in the Resurrection.