Everything God does will have a reason and a purpose. We might not be able to discern that reason at some point in time or see its relevance to other things around it. But God is perfect and true and everything, as the Psalmist said is, “Curiously wrought”, or like needle work, one thing stitched to another, marvelously interwoven to our Lord’s specifications.
In John’s telling of the risen Christ, Mary Magdalene discovers the stone covering the sepulcher has been rolled away. She tells Peter and both He and “that other disciple” ran to see what had happened. Upon entering the tomb, this is what they saw.
“Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself” (John 20:6-7).
The stone covering the sepulcher was rolled away, Jesus was gone. The cloths used to wrap his body were still there and the “napkin” used as a head covering for Christ was purposely rolled up and set aside.
The question most asked is why did Jesus fold the napkin?
As mentioned earlier, Jesus actually didn’t fold the napkin but neatly rolled it up in place. “Wrapped together” comes from the Greek, “Entylisso” which is a composite word meaning to wrap, roll up and bind.
What was this “napkin” anyway? Actually it was much more than a small napkin or handkerchief. It was a head binding. We see the same word being used for the same item on Lazarus
“And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44).
At this point it is very important to realize a couple of things. First off the “linen clothes” were not sheets, like a bed sheet, but rather strips of linen used to wrap the dead. The “napkin” was a separate item, neatly rolled up and set aside.
If the body of Jesus had been stolen, the thieves would not have taken the time to unwrap each strip of linen that covered His body and neatly roll up the napkin. Time would have been of the essence. It also would have been most impractical to unwrap the body and then carry it away. The thieves would have wanted the body still wrapped for convenience, safety and maintaining the integrity of the corpse.
It certainly would make to sense for a thief raiding the sepulcher of Jesus Christ to stop and take the time to roll up and set aside his burial head dress.
So why did the resurrected Jesus do it? Why did Jesus take the time then?
“The providence of God ordered these very little matters, so that they became the fullest proofs against the lie of the chief priests, that the body had been stolen away by the disciples” (Adam Clarke 1760-1832).
Now this brings us to yet another matter concerning the burial cloths; The Shroud of Turin. The shroud is a one piece sheet that some believe bears the image of Christ on it. It is an imprint of a Jesus type figure that appears to have been crucified. The Catholic Church purports that the Shroud of Turin was the linen cloth that was covering Jesus when he was resurrected and tht the imprint on the sheet was left upon his revival.
If the Catholic Church read what was written in the Bible, that the “cloth” was in fact strips of cloth and the napkin was a separate item from the strips, it would then be clear that the Shroud of Turin belief is invalid.
“When the Evangelist says, that a napkin was wrapped about his head, this refutes the falsehood of the Papists (Catholic Church), who pretend that the whole body was sewed up in one linen garment, which they hold out to the wretched populace, calling it “the holy winding-sheet” (Shroud of Turin). I say nothing about their gross ignorance of the Latin language, which led them to suppose that the word napkin — denoting what was used for wiping the sweat from the face, such as a handkerchief (195) — signified a covering for the whole body; nor do I say any thing about their impudence in boasting that they have this very napkin in five or six different places. But this gross falsehood is intolerable, because it openly contradicts the evangelical history” (John Calvin- 1509-1564).
It is the most common belief amongst the great expositors and Bible commentators that Jesus revived, got up, carefully removed the burial clothes and head dress, rolled the stone away and left. Why Jesus folded the napkin was just one of many signs and wonders left for the curious eye, mind and heart of man. It is proof of thievery to those who do not believe in Christ. It is proof of the resurrection of Christ to those who believe in Him.
Dedicated to my sister CJ