Tuesday, November 17, 2015

And The Napkin

John, the disciple that may have had a closer relationship with Jesus than the others usually has something more to say in his narrative about Jesus than the other gospel writers, or at least in my opinion it seems that way.  Once again we find this is the case in the following portion of Scripture ... John 20:1-8 (edited for clarity.)

"The first day of the week, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb where Jesus was placed and finds the stone that sealed the entrance has been rolled away.  She runs to Peter and John and tells them that the body of Jesus is gone.  John being younger outruns Peter to the tomb but stops at the entrance and only looks in.  When Peter arrives moments later, he goes right on inside as John follows behind him but they find no body, only the linen burial clothes that Jesus had been wrapped in."

The way John writes about this makes me think that like Peter, he saw the linen clothes the body was wrapped in first, evidently because it made a bigger pile.  Then they notice off to the side something strange.  I'll pick up with John's words as he is standing at the entrance waiting for Peter to arrive ...

"Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself."  

Many Bible scholars have tried to explain why the napkin that had wrapped the head of Jesus was placed off to the side, apart from the rest of the burial clothes.  I will share the following as one example ...

"God through His providence arranged that the napkin would be folded and neatly placed separately in a place by itself as proof that the body of Christ could not have been stolen by the disciples as the chief priests would later say.  If someone would have stolen His body, they would have snatched it away quickly without taking the time to strip the burial clothes from His body and lay them in separate places in an orderly fashion as the napkin was."    

This reasoning does have some merit ... it does sound reasonable.  But I read something the other day that caught my attention.

Back in Jewish society during meal time, before, during, and even after the time of Christ,  people of wealth had maids or kitchen help to serve the meals in the home.  If the man of the house was called away from the meal for any reason he would leave the servants a sign as to what they should expect from him.

If he was finished with his meal he would use his napkin to wipe his mouth and fingers and leave the napkin in a heap by his plate.  But if he intended to return to the table ... he would neatly fold the napkin and place it flat by his plate as a sign to show ... he would return.

Could this be the real reason Jesus folded up the napkin and laid it in a separate place by itself, away from the other linen clothes?  Was He showing the world that He would return again?

Just a thought ...