Monday, 8 March 2021
Enfolded Truth Unfolded
Ong Hwee Soo
V 6, Then Simon Peter came, following after him and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloth lying there,
V 7 and the face cloth which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloth but folded up in a place by itself. (ESV)
In my 22 February Devotional (on John 20:1-9), I highlighted the Greek word ‘theoreo’ which translates ‘see’ (past tense: ‘saw’ in v 6), meaning ‘to be a spectator of’; ‘to view attentively’, connoting a careful observation of details.
When Peter entered the tomb, arriving there after John, he saw the grave clothes as well as the face cloth (which was folded up) located separately from the burial clothes. Peter’s observations caused him to ‘theorize’ (derivative of the root word) what might be the meaning of the undisturbed grave clothes vis-a-vis the disappearance of Jesus’ embalmed body (John 19:39-41). At that point, Peter could not link the linen wrappings with the Lord’s resurrection.
Later, we read that the Resurrected Christ appeared to Peter and the remaining disciples (except Thomas). It would be reasonable to conclude that when “Jesus came and stood among them” (20:19-20), Peter would have finally connected the dots, and grasped the significance of the untouched grave clothes with Christ’s resurrection.
But what about the meaning of the folded face cloth (KJV: ‘napkin’; NKJ: ‘handkerchief’)?
V 7 highlights that the napkin was not lying together with the other grave clothes. It is also noteworthy that the napkin was neatly folded and was located at the head of the stony coffin. The precise positioning of the different cloths is pertinent here, particularly the isolated folded napkin.
Most biblical scholars are agreed that the significance has to be interpreted from a cultural context. In the Hebrew custom of the day, the folded napkin had to do with the master and servant, in a dining setting. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he ensured that it was exactly the way the master desired it. Once the table was flawlessly furnished, the servant would wait, though out of sight, until the master had finished dining. If the master had finished eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, mouth and beard, then wad up the napkin and toss it on the table, among the soiled cutlery or dishes. The servant would then clear the table, as the wadded napkin signified ‘I have finished’.
However, if the master rose from the table, folded the napkin and placed it beside his plate, the servant would not venture near the table, as the folded napkin meant ‘I am not done’ and symbolized ‘I am coming back’.
Although Jesus had on various previous occasions taught his disciples about His Second Coming, the disciples never caught the lesson, there and then.
One might speculate that when the Resurrected Lord appeared to the disciples, Peter would have thought he had understood the meaning of the folded napkin, now that Jesus had come back to them. However, it was only at the momentous event of Christ’s Ascension that Peter fully grasped its monumental import.
Acts 1:10-11 , And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold two men stood between them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
With this complete comprehension, Peter would later conclude his Second Epistle, reminding the readers of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (practically the whole chapter of II Peter 3).
As the connotation of the folded napkin is centred on the master and servant, how are we to serve our Risen Lord while tarrying His Return?
Matthew 25: 35-36 , “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcome me. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
Pending the Parousia, Jesus is saying to us, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” ( Matthew 25:40 )
It is indeed remarkable that before Jesus beckons us to serve Him in helping the needy, the text begins with, “ When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all his angels with him …( Matthew 25:31 ). In fact, the whole of Matthew 25 is devoted to His Coming Again. Firstly, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins (25:1-13) which concludes with “Watch therefore for you know neither the day nor the hour” of His Return. Secondly, the Parable of the Talents (25:14-30) which is hinged on v 19, “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.”
Jesus is the Master of our lives. As His Servants we must serve Him with our lives.
What does Jesus’ Second Coming mean to you? How might you express your hope in Christ’s Return?
Let’s Live the Life, Serving Him, in anticipation of His Coming Again.
Dear Jesus, our Lord and Master, as we look forward Your Return, helps us to serve you faithfully, as we hope to dine with You at “the marriage supper of the Lamb” ( Rev 19:6-9 ).
在我2月22日的灵修中（约翰福音20:1-9），我强调了希腊语 “theoreo” ，其翻译为 “see”（过去式，第 6节中的 “saw”），意思为 “成为……旁观者”； “专心观看”，意味着对细节的仔细观察。
然而，如果主人站起，卷好餐巾，把它放在盘子旁边，仆人就不会冒然靠近桌子，因为卷着的餐巾意味着 “我还没吃完”，意即 “我会回来”。