The opening scene in the gospel of Luke is about a priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Zechariah and Elizabeth have no children. They are old, and she is barren. But God breaks in, and gives them a son: John. His birth is part of the lead-up to Jesus’ birth, and his public preaching some 30 years later is part of the drum-roll to the public ministry of Jesus.
Easily missed in these records is a single-phrase mention of one “Herod, king of Judea” (Lk 1:5).
Four words: That’s all Herod gets. Zechariah, Elizabeth, John and Jesus get twenty-four chapters.
Historians tend to see the life and ministry of Jesus as an obscure subplot to the real story – by which they mean big things like empires (Rome) and kings (Herod).
But Luke is an historian as well. And he sets his own grid in giving us his account of “the events that have been fulfilled among us” (Lk 1:1). Christ as a “subplot”? No. Herod is the subplot. Luke generously gives him a walk-on moment in the Real Story. And that’s what Christ is.