DayBreaks for 2/13/18: The Message of the Folded Napkin
From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:
A DayBreaks reader sent this to me and it’s well worth passing on (I’m sorry, I don’t know who originally wrote this):
“Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection?
“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.”
I have come to believe that any detail that God has chosen to include in scripture has significance if we can only see it. So, why did John make note of the napkin that was folded neatly by the burial clothes? 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 Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, 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. The servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished. Now if the master was 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!”
I also think it is significant where Jesus left the napkin. He could have folded his napkin at the Last Supper and laid it neatly on the table. We don’t know that he did that or not and Scripture certainly doesn’t mention it. But Jesus leaves the folded napkin at the edge of a grave as if to tell us that he’s coming back to the place of the dead once more and that when he does, he’ll do the same thing that he’d done with Lazarus just a few chapters earlier in John.
It’s one thing to say you’ll come back to a dinner table to eat – but another thing entirely to say you’ll come back to the place of death and bring life with you! If your life is “dead” right now, think about the folded napkin and rejoice in the silent message it brings!
PRAYER: Almighty Lord Jesus, ruler of all things, thank you for the simple message of the folded napkin and the hope that it brings us as we live out our days on earth! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.