It is interesting to note the fates of those who would destroy Jesus Christ. These included Herod the Great, Judas Iscariot, and Pontius Pilate.
Herod the Great was the Roman king of Judea who reigned from 37 B.C. to 4 or 1 B.C. He was so brutally ambitious that he even killed his own wife and children. But his most notorious act was the so-called “Massacre of the Innocents” in Bethlehem and its vicinity, ordered by Herod in an attempt to destroy Jesus in his infancy. By the time the order was carried out, however, Joseph had been warned
in a dream to leave the area, which, along with Mary and Jesus, he did, foiling Herod’s plan.
It was not long after this that Herod experienced what the ancient historian Eusebius calls a “terrible end”:
He had an overpowering desire for food, which it was impossible to satisfy, ulceration of the intestines with agonizing pains in the lower bowel, and a clammy transparent humour covering the feet. The abdomen was in the same miserable state, and in the genitals mortification set in, breeding worms. Breathing was constricted and only possible when sitting upright, and it was most offensive because of the heavy stench and feverish respiration. He suffered in every part convulsions that were unbearably severe. (Ecclesiastical History, 1.8)
A maggot infestation of the scrotum? Ugh. No wonder Herod went on to attempt suicide. But as the Jewish historian Josephus tells us, Herod was prevented from doing so by his cousin. In any case, Herod’s demise soon followed his torturous illness.
Fast-forward about 33 years, and we find Judas Iscariot attempting to waylay Jesus. Unlike Herod, Judas succeeds. For thirty silver coins, Judas betrays Jesus into the hands of the Romans, who would subsequently crucify him. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Judas felt extreme remorse for this, saying “I have sinned for I have betrayed innocent blood.” Matthew then notes that “Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself” (Mt. 27:4-5). According to the book of Acts, Judas first
purchased a field with some of that money. Presumably, that’s where he hung himself, and where eventually “he fell headlong and all his intestines spilled out” (Acts 1:18).
It was Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea, who presided over the trial of Jesus. Seemingly reluctant to condemn Jesus, Pilate declared, “I find no basis for a charge against this man” (Lk. 23:4). Nevertheless, he eventually succumbed to the pressure of the crowd and Jewish leaders, sentencing Jesus to be crucified. Still, he insisted, I am innocent of this man’s blood” (Mt. 27:24) while washing his hands in front of the crowd.
So what became of the duplicitous Pilate? Apparently he met the same fate as Judas—suicide. Eusebius explains that, Pilate “was involved in such calamities that he was forced to become his own executioner and to punish himself with his own hand.” (Ecclesiastical History, 2.7)
Herod the Great, Judas Iscariot, and Pontius Pilate—three (would-be or actual) Jesus killers. It is a macabre coincidence—whether or not mere coincidence—that each died the way he did. Herod attempted to kill Jesus but failed, though his attempt brought much misery. Likewise, he attempted to kill himself but failed, and his failure extended his own extreme misery. Iscariot and Pilate, on the other hand, both succeeded in putting Jesus to death. Likewise, they both also succeeded in putting themselves to death.
Talk about poetic justice. To condemn the Source of Life is to condemn one’s own life. To attack God is to attack oneself at the most foundational level.