Jesus’ Folded Napkin

A pertinent question for Easter came to me from my daughter, Charis. She received an email that told this tale and wondered what I thought of it.  I’ve summarized it here (and corrected some of the grammar):

When Peter arrived at the grave of Jesus the Bible says the napkin that covered Jesus’ face was neatly folded up.  To understand the significance of that you have to understand a little about Hebrew tradition.

When a servant set the table for his master, he would stand aside waiting until the master had finished eating.  When the master left the table if he was done eating he would rise, wad up the napkin and toss it onto the table.  The wadded napkin meant, ‘I’m done’. 

But if the master got up from the table, folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not touch the table because…. the folded napkin meant “I am coming back.”   He is coming back!

A: My thoughts on the story.

1. Jesus IS coming back and I am glad.

2. Cute story but very thin on facts.

3. While KJV does call the cloth a “napkin”, new KJV does not and the Greek indicates more of a towel for wiping sweat.

4. This “Hebrew tradition” is not unique to the Jews or the first century.  Duh! We still do that today.  Plus, my research shows that no such “tradition” existed then any more than it does today.

5. It would have been just as significant (and more Biblical) if He had wadded it up and tossed it aside indicating, “I am done.”  (It is finished!)

So is it significant that the towel was folded and separate from the grave clothes?  Certainly!  You do not find irrelevant, filler facts in God’s Word.  There may be a more profound meaning than this (stay tuned for any further understandings) but the most obvious is to reinforce that the body was not stolen- as the Jewish leaders would declare.

Remember the main message of John – the only gospel where this detail is found – was the divinity of Christ.  His resurrection was an essential element of establishing the fact that He was not just a man – He was God in the flesh.  When He left the grave, there was no hurry, no scrambling by disciples or grave robbers to not get caught.  In fact, who would undress a body before stealing it?  Thieves would not take the body and leave the valuable cloth.  The disciples would have taken the body and the clothes if trying to fake a resurrection.

But the living Jesus had no more need of graves clothes.  Unlike Lazarus, who had to be set free from his grave clothes and would later die again, Jesus was and is alive forevermore!  In fact, think about this, later Jesus would walk through walls into a locked room.  He did not need the stone moved away to get out.  The angels didn’t open the grave to let Him out but to let us peer in

and see, “He is not here!  He is Risen!”

It may be a cute story but sadly these intentional fabrications, no matter how well meaning, tend to make Christians look foolish.  We have the most awesome story of all human history to proclaim.  We only cheapen it with unsubstantiated, clearly flawed and easily disproven fables

such as this.  Sadly they undermine the credibility of the true message.  Stick to the facts.  Stick with God’s Word.  It is awesome enough without embellishment.


5 thoughts on “Jesus’ Folded Napkin

  1. AMEN – what you have said is so!
    Also especially at this time of the [church] year, some say that when Jesus cried out the first verse of Ps 22, He was proclaiming The Father left Him, or at least turned His back on Him. I find no Scripture which says this, and in fact that same Psalm clearly shows in verses 22-24 what seems to be just the opposite.

    Your comments please.

  2. That is a good point. I would read this as a progressive telling of the story. In other words, at the start of the Psalm the Lord is in the agony of the cross – taking our rejection because He became sin for us. At the end of the Psalm, as David’s Psalms often do, we have gone from surrounded by our enemies to brought to victory by the Lord.

    The latter part of the Psalm is speaking of God rescuing Jesus from the grave. Though the Father may have turned his face from Him on the cross, ultimately, “he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” and did deliver him from ultimate death. Note the request to deliver my life from the sword” (implying death). Jesus was not delivered from death – yet, ultimately He was. He died but He did not ultimately die. He was rejected but He was not ultimately rejected. Make sense?

    I have always felt it did indicate God turned his back on him at that moment because of our sin. God has to reject sin and at that moment Jesus actually became sin.

    Otherwise, I don’t know how to interpret what Jesus cried from the cross? Why would He ask “Why have you forsaken me?” if He had not been forsaken.

    Interesting topic for sure. Further thoughts?

  3. This reminded me of a post that a proclaimed atheist posted on FB – “Matt 12:40 ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’ Friday night-Sunday morning=1.5 days. Therefore, have a great Easter Monday everyone!”
    I would like to see your response to this, too – Thanks!

  4. Jesus was crucified on Wednesday and taken down from the cross just before sundown. He arose just before sunrise on what would have been Sunday early morning in our time and just before the 1st day of the week which is Sunday at sunrise in biblical time. That is how you get 72 hours which is 3 days and 3 nights. The main stream Christians are wrong and have always been wrong.

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