Folded Linen

Daily Devotional – I’m Normal.™  I AM Ministries

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Normal I AM

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Folded Linen

Have you ever seen a house after robbers invaded? Perhaps you have seen a TV show or movie depicting the aftermath of a home robbery. One of the distinguishing characteristics is the disorder and dishevelment. Robbers ransacking a home typically make a mess by tossing anything of marginal value on the floor. In their haste and concern for being caught, they do not have time or motivation to keep or make anything tidy. When Jesus’ empty tomb was first inspected, a nagging question arose – Why was His death linen folded so carefully?

Robbery was attributed as the motive for the empty tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:11-15). The chief priests bribed the Roman guards to spread a story that attributed the empty tomb to Jesus’ disciples having stolen His body. But a careful examination of the tomb presents evidence that confirms His resurrection, not the theft of His body.

“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.” (John 20:1-7).

Anyone who watches police investigation shows can see how the story circulated by the Roman guards does not match the evidence found in the tomb. Jesus’ grave clothes were found in good order. They were not cast about, disheveled, crumpled, or discarded. Instead, they were still lying as if the body had just, well, vanished. History records it was common practice for tomb robbers to take the clothes and leave the body, but never had anyone taken a body and left the clothes, especially when the clothes were fine, new linen that had value.

As a practical matter, any sane person would prefer to carry a clothed body than a naked one. As further evidence, it also would have taken more time to undress the body than to carry it away fully-clothed. Remember, the alleged robbers needed to hurry in case the members of the Roman guard woke up. And besides, what robber would take the time to fold up the head cloth carefully and then abandon it. The evidence simply does not fit the crime.

The explanation of robbery has been offered for generations. It is solid and based on human nature as grave robbing is as old as man. It might even pass muster in a court of law. Fortunately, when Jesus was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was careful to leave us this evidence. Now, generations later, an added perspective has emerged.

In order to understand the significance of the folded linen, it’s important to understand a few things about the Hebrew tradition of that day. Napkins were made of linen. A folded napkin was a form of communication between the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating. The servant would not dare touch the 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 the napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. In those days, the wadded napkin meant, “I’m done”. In contrast, 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 servant knew the folded napkin meant, “I’m not finished yet.” The folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back!”

Jesus IS coming back! We know this because He told us so and because of the folded linen in His tomb.

It is not normal for a robber to fold and abandon a valuable linen napkin. However, it is very normal for our LORD to fold His cloth to indicate He will return to dine with us. We have a standing invitation. “Here I AM!  I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20).

In His love and service,

Jeff Myers
A servant of Jesus Christ


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