The Napkin is Still Folded

JOHN 20:1-7 –  The Empty Tomb
1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.

In the Biblical days, when someone died, it was the duty of a family member to close the eyes and kiss the cheek of the dead.  When Christ died, this became the duty of two men:  Joseph of Arimathea (a city of Judea) who had donated his new tomb outside Jerusalem to receive the body of Christ, and Nicodemus… a Pharisee that had visited with Christ earlier.  They went to Pontius Pilate and begged the body of the Lord Jesus.

Then they had to take Him down from the cross…which was not an easy chore.  First, they had to rig a ladder, and climb up the side of the cross, and then they had to pull His hands off over the nails.  There was no way they could get those spikes out of the wood, not from that angle, not with His hands in-between the wood and the nail head.  Once the hands were loosed, they allowed the body of Jesus to sag into a sheet, and would then remove His feet from the nail in the same manner.
They took the body of Jesus to a new tomb, that Joseph had prepared for himself.  They washed His body, and wrapped it in white linen, folding His arms over His chest.  They closed His eyes, kissed His cheek, and placed a napkin (cloth) over His face.

They walked away from that tomb, and no doubt they walked in silence…so that all you could hear was the sounds of their sadness, muffled crying, and sniffing.  Surely it must have felt like a huge ball of lead in the pit of their stomachs, as they were thinking, “It’s all over, the end of the dream…and it only lasted for 3 short years.”

3 days passed like an eternity…and I believe with all my heart that the birds refused to sing.  For 3 days, all the demons of hell rejoiced, and Satan and the forces of darkness thought they had won a great victory.  For 3 days, the Jewish leaders, as well as the Roman government, congratulated themselves on their brilliant scheme.  But on the 3rd day, something wonderful and miraculous happened, as God the Father said to an angel in heaven, “Go get Him!”  And when the angel’s feet hit the ground, the stone rolled away, and up from the grave He arose by His own power!

In our text above from John, Mary comes first to the empty tomb.  She sees the stone rolled away and it frightens her.  And so she runs to get Peter and John, and they run together to the tomb as fast as they could.  John outran Peter, and when he got there, he looked inside, and saw those grave clothes lying there in disarray.  Then Peter arrived and, just as we’d expect of him, went right in.  He also saw the linen clothes lying there, but there was something unusual in that scene.  Something caught their eye that was very interesting.

The Gospel of John (as above) tells us that the napkin (cloth), 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 aside special.  Is that important?  Everything in God’s Word is important, and this is no exception!

Hebrew Tradition (Master and Servant). 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.  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, and the servant would not dare touch that 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 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 aside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because the servant knew that the folded napkin meant, “I’m not finished yet.”  The folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back!”  Excuse me while I shout Amen!

Then after 3 days, they saw an empty tomb.  Not only did they see an empty tomb, but they saw a folded napkin in that empty tomb!  Perhaps God spoke to them in their being and said, “He’s not finished yet…He’s coming back!”

In John 19:30 Jesus said, just before He died, “It is Finished.”  That is, what He came to do on His FIRST visit.  But His work was only begun.

The napkin is still folded…He’s still saving souls!

Acts 1:3After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

The Forty Days… any significance?

In the Old Testament, when God destroyed the earth with water, He caused it to rain 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis  7:12). After Moses killed the Egyptian, he fled to Midian, where he spent 40 years in the desert tending flocks (Acts 7:30). Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18). Moses interceded on Israel’s behalf for 40 days and 40 nights (Deuteronomy 9:18, 25). The Law specified a maximum number of lashes a man could receive for a crime, setting the limit at 40 (Deuteronomy 25:3).

The Israelite spies took 40 days to spy out Canaan (Numbers 13:25). The Israelites wandered for 40 years (Deuteronomy 8:2-5). Before Samson’s deliverance, Israel served the Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1). Goliath taunted Saul’s army for 40 days before David arrived to slay him (1 Samuel 17:16). When Elijah fled from Jezebel, he traveled 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).

There is nothing specific stated in the Bible about the significance of the number forty but it seemed to be the trend.


While searching my Bible references on the Internet, I came across this short lesson on the benefits of the resurrection. I thought I’d share them with all of you.

  1. We ALL can be free and forgiven by Jesus’ death.Isaiah 56:8For the Sovereign Lord, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.”

    Romans 4:25
    25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.
  2. Jesus defeated death so we don’t have to fear it.2 Peter 1:1616 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyesActs 1:3During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

    1 Corinthians 15:3-8 – I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter* and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers* at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.
  3. We have God’s spirit within us.Acts 1:8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

    Ephesians 1:19-20
    19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.
  4. God loves us unconditionally.John 3:16-17 – 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave* his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

    John 13:34-3534 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
  5. God has a greater purpose for our lives.Mark 8:3535 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

    2 Corinthians 4:17-18
    17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.Philippians 1:2121 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
  6. We can be certain of a future in heaven.1 Peter 1:4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you

    1 Corinthians 2:9However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” —the things God has prepared for those who love him—John 14:6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.Romans 10:9 – If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Our Lord, the only begotten Son of our God has sacrificed himself for us. Through his actions, we have all been saved from certain damnation and eternal suffering.

Give thanks to Him today, remember his sacrifice and spread His word to others, less fortunate than we the believers.

Go with God… Humble and Kind …be ready, He’s coming back… He’s not done, He’s simply folded his napkin!