Key people


Herod Antipas

Most people dislike having their sins pointed out, especially in public. The shame of being exposed is often stronger than the guilt brought on by the wrongdoing. Herod Antipas was a man experiencing both guilt and shame.

Herod’s ruthless ambition was public knowledge, as was illegal marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias. One man made Herod’s sin a public issue. That man was John the Baptist. John had been preaching in the wilderness, and thousands flocked to hear him. Apparently it was no secret that John had rebuked Herod for his adulterous marriage. Herodias was particularly anxious to have John silenced. As a solution, Herod imprisoned John.

Herod liked John. John was probably one of the few people he met who spoke only the truth to him. But the truth about his sin was a bitter pill to swallow, and Herod wavered at the point of conflict: He couldn’t afford to have John constantly reminding the people of their leader’s sinfulness, but he was afraid to have John killed. He put off the choice. Eventually Herodias forced his hand, and John was executed. Of course, this only served to increase Herod’s guilt.

Upon hearing about Jesus, Herod immediately identified him with John. He couldn’t decide what to do about Jesus. He didn’t want to repeat the mistake he had made with John, so he tried to threaten Jesus just before Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. When the two met briefly during Jesus’ trial, Jesus would not speak to Herod. Herod had proved himself a poor listener to John, and Jesus had nothing to add to John’s words. Herod responded with spite and moking. Having rejected the messenger, he found it easy to reject the Messiah.

For each person, God chooses the best possible ways to reveal himself. He uses his Word, various circumstances, our minds, or other people to get our attention. He is persuasive and persistent but never forces himself on us. To miss or resist God's message, as did Herod, is a tragedy. How aware are you of God's attempts to enter your life? Have you welcomed him?

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Built the city of Tiberias and oversaw other architectural projects

    • Ruled the region of Galilee for the Romans

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • Consumed with his quest for power

    • Put off decisions or made wrong ones under pressure

    • Divorce his wife to marry the wife of his half brother, Philip

    • Imprisoned John the Baptist and later ordered his execution

    • Had a minor part in the execution of Jesus

Lessons from his life

    • A life motivated by ambition is usually characterized by self destruction

    • Opportunities to do good usually come to us in the form of choices to made

Vital statistics

    • Where: Jerusalem

    • Occupation: Roman ruler of the region of Galilee and Perea

    • Relative: Father: Herod the Great. Mother: Malthace. First wife: daughter of Aretas IV. Second wife: Herodias

    • Contemporaries: John the Baptist, Jesus, Pilate

Key verse

    • “Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him” (Mark 6:20)

Herod Antipas`s story is told in the Gospels. He is also mentioned in Acts 4:27; 13:1

Judas Iscariot

It is easy to overlook the fact that Jesus chose Judas to be his disciple. We may also forget that while Judas betrayed Jesus,all the disciples abandoned him. With the other disciples, Judas shared a persistent misunderstanding of Jesus mission. They all expected Jesus to make the right political moves. When he kept talking about dying, they all felt varying degrees of anger, fear, and disappointment. They didn’t understand why they had been chosen if JesUs’ mission was doomed to faIl.

The exact motivation behind Judas’s betrayal is unknown. What is clear is that Judas allowed his desires to place him in a position where Satan could manipulate him. Judas accepted payment to set Jesus up to the religious leaders. He identified Jesus for the guards in the dimly lit Garden of Gethsemane. It is possible that he was trying to force Jesus’ hand: Would Jesus now rebel against Rome and set up a new political government?

Whatever his plan, though, at some point Judas realized he didn’t like the way things were tuning out. He tried to undo the evil he had done by returning the money to the priests, but it was too late. The wheels of God’s sovereign plan had been set into motion. How sad that Judas ended his life in despair without ever experiencing the gift of reconciliation God could give even to him through Jesus Christ.

Human feeling toward Judas have always been mixed. Some have fervently hated him for his betrayal. Others have pitied him for not realizing what he was doing. A few have tried to make him a hero for his part in ending Jesus’ earthly mission. Some have questioned God’s fairness in allowing one man to bear such guilt. While there are many feelings about Judas, there are some facts to consider as well. He, by his own choice, betrayed God’s Son into the hands of soldiers (Luke 22:48). He was a thief (John 12:6). Jesus knew that Judas’s life of evil would not change (John 6:70). Judas’s betrayal of Jesus was part of God’s sovereign plan (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 20:18; 26:20-25; Acts 1:16, 20).

In betraying Jesus, Judas made the greatest mistake in history. But the fact that Jesus knew Judas would betray him doesn’t mean that Judas was a puppet of God’s will. Judas made the choice. God knew what that choice would be and confirmed it. Judas didn’t lose his relationship with Jesus; rather, he never found Jesus in the first place. He is called “The one headed for destruction” (John 17:12) because he was never saved.

Judas does us a favor if he makes us think a second time about our commitment to God and the presence of God’s Spirit within us. Are we true disciples and followers, or uncommitted pretenders? We can choose despair and death, or we can chose repentance, forgiveness, hope, and eternal life. Judas’s betrayal sent Jesús to the cross to guarantee that second choice, our only chance. Will we accept Jesus’ free gift, or, like Judas, betray him?

Strengths and accomplishments

    • He was chosen as one of the 12 disciples; the only non-Galilean

    • He was in charge of the disciples’ funds

    • He was able to recognize the evil in his betrayal of Jesus

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • He was greedy (John 12:6)

    • He betrayed Jesus

    • He committed suicide instead of seeking forgiveness

Lessons from his life

    • Evil plans and motives leave us open to being used by Satan for even greater evil

    • The consequences of evil are so devastating that even small lies and little wrongdoings have serious results

    • God’s plan and his purpose are worked out even in the worst possible events

Vital statistics

    • Where: Possibly from the town of Kerioth

    • Occupation: Disciple of Jesus

    • Relative: Father: Simon

    • Contemporaries: Jesus, Pilate, Herod, the other 11 disciples

Key verses

    • “Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciple, and he went to the leading priest and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them” (Luke 22:3-4)

Judas’s story is told in the Gospels. He is also mentioned in Acts 1:18-19.


In Jesus’ day, any death sentence had to be approved by the Roman official in charge of the administrative district. Pontius Pilate was governor in the province of Judea, where Jerusalem was located. When the Jewish leaders had Jesus in their power and wanted to kill him, they had to obtain Pilate’s permission. So it happened that early one morning Pilate found a crowd at his door demanding a man’s death.

Pilate’s relationship with the Jews had always been stormy. His Roman toughness and fairness had been weakened by cynicism, compromises, and mistakes. On several occasions his actions had deeply offended the religious leaders. The resulting riots and chaos must have made Pilate wonder what he had gotten himself into. He was trying to control people who treated their Roman conquerors without respect. Jesus’ trial was another episode in Pilate’s ongoing problems.

For Pilate, there was never a doubt Jesus’ innocence. Three separate times he declared Jesus not guilty. He couldn’t understand why these people wanted to kill Jesus, but his fear of the Jews’ political pressure made him decide to allow Jesus’ crucifixion. Because of the people’s threat to inform the emperor that Pilate hadn’t eliminated a rebel against Rome, Pilate went against what he knew was right. In desperation, he chose to do wrong.

We share a common humanity with Pilate. At times we know what is right but choose what is wrong. He had his moment in history, and now we have ours. What have we done with our opportunities and responsibilities? What judgment have we passed on Jesus?

Strength and accomplishment

    • Roman governor of Judea

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • He failed in his attempt to rule a people who were defeated militarily but never dominated by Rome

    • His constant political struggles made him a cynical and uncaring compromiser, susceptible to pressure

    • Although he realized Jesus was innocent, he bowed to the public demand for his execution

Lessons from his life

    • Great evil happen when truth is at the mercy of political pressures

    • Resisting the truth leaves a person without purpose or direction

Vital statistics

    • Where: Judea

    • Occupation: Roman governor of Judea

    • Relative: Wife: unnamed

    • Contemporaries: Jesus, Caiaphas, Herod

Key verses

    • “What is truth? Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them. ‘He is not guilty of any crime. But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. Would you like me to release this “King of the Jews”’?” (John 18:38-39).

Pilate’s story is told in the Gospels. He also mentioned in Acts 3:13; 4:27; 13:28; 1 Timothy 6:13.