In the Christian tradition, we’ve just celebrated the Easter season but here’s a detail I’ve never heard addressed: Following His resurrection, why was the napkin that covered the face of Jesus in the tomb, folded?
In recording details of His death and resurrection, we’re told that early that Sunday morning Mary Magdalene came to the tomb only to find that the massive stone covering the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away. Mystified, she ran and found disciples John and Simon Peter.
“They’ve taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb and I don’t know where they’ve put Him…” she cried out. (John 20:7).
John outran Peter, and stooping, he looked in and saw the linen cloth lying with the other funeral garments; when Simon Peter arrived, he went inside where he also noticed that the cloth that had covered Jesus' head was folded up and lying to the side.
Here’s the significance: In Hebrew tradition when the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. Then he would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating. Until then he would not dare touch that table. Once the master was done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, then would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. It was the signal to clear the table.
If the master got up from the table, however, folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant knew his master was saying, “Leave it, I'm coming back!'
In these days of confusion, pandemic and horrific warfare, its both important and comforting to realize that “the napkin is still folded”.
His promise still stands: He hasn’t forgotten us. Hallelujah!
May 24, 2021