The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Admiral Ackbar has one of the most memorable lines from the entire series: “It’s a trap!” It’s become so famous that it was used in The Big Bang Theory.
The trap was sprung, and Herod had no choice. He was in a corner with only one way out. There was no turning back from his words, oath, and promise.
It’s easy to point the finger at this drunken, lecherous excuse of a man and king. Just like we righteously point our finger at those who have fallen around us.
Just this morning, there was an article in the local paper about how the governor of Florida has suspended nine elected officials since 2018. As we sit high and exalted in our pristine moral tower, we look down our nose at all those who have fallen.
But, just like Herod, we fail. And no matter our views on faith, Jesus, religion, or life, we do the same thing. Herod was greatly distressed. He was sorry. He finally understood the implications and results of his words, thoughts, actions, and attitudes.
You don’t have to be “religious” to feel sorry, or even to repent. When we get caught, there’s regret. And boy did Herod feel regret, because now he was going to eat his words. His authority was going to be responsible for the death of a good man.
And it didn’t take a long time. While the party was still going on, Herod gives instructions, the soldier goes, cuts John’s head off and brings it back to the party on a platter.
Because I’m me, and I cook a lot, I wonder where the platter came from? Did Herod point to it when he gave the order at the dinner party? That certainly would make for a dramatic departure. Imagine the soldier reaching out to over a table, grabbing the platter and whisking it away as he left the room.
Did the soldier leave the party emptyhanded, stop in the kitchen and pick up the platter? Or was there another scenario?
No matter how, the soldier returned with Johns’ head on the platter. He gave it to the girl who must have carried it outside of the party and gave it to her mother.
It’s one thing to see images like this through entertainment on television or movies. It’s another thing to see footage like this on real-life video or the news. But it’s another thing altogether to see it live and in person.
Imagine the girl carrying this platter to her mother. Was the head facing her? Did she turn it to face her mother as she handed it over?
We all have some vivid scenes in our memory that alter our lives. The question is what do we do with them? As far as we can tell, it didn’t impact Herod, Herodias, the girl, the soldier, or those attending the party.
And when it came to the trial of Jesus before Herod, he was more interested in the excitement and entertainment value of a miracle. Jesus leaves while Herod and the soldiers mock him and put on that famous royal robe which gets ripped off during his torture.
Jesus carries his cross, carries our sin, is crucified, and lifted up to die because of our self-centered, self-importance, self-worship. Like Herod, Herodias, the girl, the soldier, and those who witnessed the events at the birthday party, we’re trapped in sin and need forgiveness. We need redemption. We need reconciliation.
And Jesus is the only one, the only way to have forgiveness. To find relief from the trap we’ve set for ourselves. It’s not earned, it’s not based on what we do, but on who Jesus is and what he did.
It’s as simple as that. And that’s no trap.