Question:

I received the following in regards to John 20:7. Is this true?

Why did Jesus fold the napkin?

This is one I can honestly say I have never seen circulating in the e-mails.

Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection? I never noticed this.......

John 20:7 tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not 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 that Sunday morning, 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 and I don't know where they have taken 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 napkin that had covered Jesus face was folded up and lying to one side.

Is that important? Absolutely! Is that really significant? Yes!

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about the 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 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.

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 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 finished".

I did not know this....

If the Master got up from the table, and folded his napkin beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because.... The folded napkin meant, "I'm coming back!".

He is coming back!


Answer:

Such a custom did not exist in Jesus' time. I never heard of such a custom and to be sure I check numerous sources and found no such custom recorded. I also check the Internet, and again, the consistent answer is that no such custom exists.

The claim actually distracts from the real significance of the fold napkin and the other grave clothes. By the way the earlier part of the note mentions a stone coffin -- something that does not appear in the Gospels. It also assumes the rest of the grave clothes were thrown aside, which again the Gospels do not say.

One of the purposes of the Gospels is to provide a foundation for belief. "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31). The testimonies of eyewitness accounts provide evidence that we can really believe that Jesus existed, died, and arose from the grave.

One of the false rumors spread early on was that Jesus' body was stolen. "Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, "Tell them, 'His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.' And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure." So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day" (Matthew 28:11-15). The simple fact of the folded face cloth stands in the way of this claim. If someone stole the body, why would they take the time to remove the grave clothes and fold the napkin neatly in another place? The folded face cloth is a statement of someone taking their time.

Another false story that the Muslims like to spread is that Jesus did not really die, but merely swooned from the grueling torture. He supposedly recovered enough to leave the grave (without the guards noticing). But again, the folded face cloth stands in the way. When a person was beaten so severely that he appeared to everyone to be dead, then why would he stop to take the time to neatly fold the face cloth?

In other words, the evidence at the scene, witnessed by Peter and John, does not match the made up stories circulated to undermine the powerful testimony of Jesus' resurrection. That is the meaning of the folded face cloth.