The Folded Cloth…
There is an obscure part of the resurrection story that we generally glance over when reading the account of the first Easter morning. John, generally referred to as the apostle that Jesus loved, tells us several details that we don’t find in the other accounts of the empty tomb.
Like many of the events that occurred during Holy Week, we have heard the stories so many times that we tend to glance over the details and assume that we have read and understood the entire scriptural accounts of what happened. However, that generally isn’t the case. Tonight’s post is about one of those details!
After John and Peter heard from Mary Magdalene that the tomb was empty, both of the disciples ran toward the tomb. John, we are told, ran faster, arriving there ahead of Peter. Sticking his head into the open tomb, John noticed that the strips of linen that had wrapped Jesus were lying on a bench.
Impetuous Peter, always the one to run headstrong into new situations, ran past John and entered the tomb first, also noticing that the strips of linen were on the bench. But Peter also saw something else – that the cloth that had been wrapped around the head of Jesus was neatly folded, separate from the linens. At first this seems like an odd detail to recount, but it would have sent a loud message to people of the day.
That’s because it had to do with the social customs of the time. When someone at a meal was leaving the table, to return later, they would put their cloth “napkin” where they had been sitting, bunched up and not folded. This would signify to the servants that the person was going to return to the table. However, if the person was done with their meal, they would neatly fold the cloth and lay it down, signifying to the servants that the meal was done and the person would not be returning to the table. Do you see the connection to the resurrection story?
Jesus, or maybe even the angels that we read about, folded the cloth and laid it on the bench, signifying that Jesus was done with this chapter of the tomb – that He would not be returning to the empty tomb. He was finished… done… the resurrection had occurred, for real! His death was the “forever” sacrifice, done once with eternal consequences.
Our verse for tonight details the arrival of John and Peter at the tomb. We are told by the apostle John, according to his Gospel, in John 20:6-7, “Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.”
My encouragement this evening is that the Bible is full of details that we tend to glance over as we read the Scriptures. However, God gives us, through the writers of the Bible, great insight into His desires for us and our lives. It continues to be important that we read the details in stories, even though we have heard the accounts many times. And I, for one, am sometimes guilty of glancing over the things that don’t seem important in the moment.
My prayer tonight is that we will all celebrate this Resurrection Sunday and renew our dedication to deepening our relationship with Jesus, the Risen King, through personal interaction as well as through His written word. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…