Summary: This sermon looks at the pride of Herod Agrippa in Acts 12:1-4 and 20-24.
The Purpose Pride ruled (v. 1) – Herod Agrippa is the grandson of Herod the Great. He is the first heir of Herod’s to hold the title of King since his grandfather’s death. He is also the first person to rule over the same complete kingdom since his grandfather. He had been in previous trouble with the Roman government for speaking foolishly and was imprisoned by Tiberius for about a year and was released after Tiberius Death. He knew how the people of Palestine hated his family so he played the part of an observant Jew while in Jerusalem. He knew he must win the affection of the Jewish population in order to have a successful reign and maintain the peace of Rome or Pax Romana. The Jewish Christians were easy targets since they no longer observed orthodox Judaism and were considered to be divisive and potential trouble makers. So Herod decided to harass some from the Church.
The Person Pride murdered (v. 2) – Herod then decided to go a step further. Apparently harassing the Church curried some amount of favor so why not take it a step further and murder one of their leaders? James, the son of Zebedee, is one of the original twelve and the brother of John. It is interesting to note that he is the first of the apostles to be martyred and his brother John is the last to die although he was not martyred. It is believed that he, James, was beheaded by the sword which was a form of execution supported by Jewish tradition.
The Power Pride possessed (v. 3) – Success was achieved, the Jews relished the idea that their King would deal so appropriately in their minds with the Christians. Herod’s hunger for approval and affection could not be quenched by only one murder. There must be yet another. This one however must be of more significance and consequence than the first. Peter was his choice, the leader of the apostles and apparent leader of the early Church. So he had him arrested and held intending to make a spectacle of him following the eight day celebration of Passover.
The People Pride suppressed (v. 20) – The people of Tyre and Sidon were keenly aware of Herod’s ability to inflict pain. They relied on him for provision of food. They wanted to make some form of peace with him so that their continued existence would be ensured. Blastus, the king’s aide had become an ally for their cause and they hoped for a positive outcome. So much so that they were willing to say or do anything to get it, as will be seen in verse 22.
The Persona Pride demanded (v. 21) – Herod thought so highly of himself that he presented himself in royal apparel to give a speech. We might think of royal purple or blue flowing robes with elaborate trims and tassels. Herod however had something far greater in mind to feed his ego. The Jewish historian Josephus reports that Herod wore a garment made of silver. I can only imagine how he might have looked sitting on his throne mid day in an open air amphitheater shining brightly as the sun reflected off of his silver garment. He looked so radiant in fact that the people (seeking to flatter him all the more to gain his favor) said his was “the voice of a god and not of a man”.
The Punishment Pride provided (v. 23) – Herod had the chance of a lifetime. Playing the part of an observant Jew, he knew how to give God the glory and turn the attention from himself to God. However; his pride wouldn’t be set aside and he took all of the moment in as well as the consequences that came with it. Both Luke and Josephus record the gruesome death of Herod. Josephus states that his suffering lasted for five days. His pride had truly become his downfall.