Friends, in today’s Gospel, we see Herod interested in and perplexed by Jesus. Political rulers don’t come across well in the New Testament. In Luke’s Christmas account, Caesar Augustus is compared very unfavorably to the Christ child. And in Matthew’s account that child is hunted down by the desperate Herod. Later, Herod’s son persecutes John the Baptist and Jesus himself. More to it, the Jewish authorities are seen in all of the Gospels as corrupt.
And Pontius Pilate is a typical Roman governor: efficient, concerned for order, brutal. Like the other rulers of the time, he perceives Jesus, quite correctly, as a threat. “So you are a king?” Pilate asks. Jesus says, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.”
This does not mean that Jesus is unconcerned for the realities of politics, with the very “this-worldly” concerns of justice, peace, and right order. When he speaks of his kingdom not belonging to the “world,” he shades the negative side of that term. The “world” is the realm of sin, selfishness, hatred, violence. What he is saying is that his way of ordering things is not typical of worldly powers like Pilate, Caesar, and Herod.