Last week was our last “regular” week of Bible Study Fellowship before we break for the summer. We have studied the book of Matthew this year–for 32 weeks. This week, we discussed Jesus’ resurrection and the subject of the burial cloth came up in our discussion group. I enjoyed receiving the writing below in an email from Melody in our group, regarding the burial cloth (napkin). May it give you some insight, as well as encourage you!
Subject: Why did Jesus fold his napkin
Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection? I never noticed this…. The Gospel of John (20:7) tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of that stony coffin. Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don ‘t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in.
Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side. Is that important? Absolutely! Is it really significant? Yes!
In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Hebrew boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for themaster, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished. Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, “I’m done”. But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because………
The folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back!” He is Coming Back!
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Thank you for writing this. I too struggled with the significance of the napkin. What a ‘light bulb’ moment!