Monday, 8 March 2021
Enfolded Truth Unfolded
Ong Hwee Soo

John 20:6-7.

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 ).



6 西门彼得随后也到了,进坟墓里去,就看见细麻布还放在那里;
7 又看见耶稣的裹头巾没有和细麻布放在一处,是另在一处卷着。

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。

彼得继约翰之后进了坟墓,看见坟墓里的细麻布与裹头巾(卷着)分开放置。彼得的观察使他 “推论”(原词的衍生词)相对于已消失的耶稣被香料裹好的尸体,未受干扰的细麻布可能是什么意思(约翰福音19:39-41)。在那时,彼得无法将细麻布与主的复活联系起来。

后来,我们看到复活的基督向彼得和其他门徒(除了多马)显现。我们可以合理地得到这样的结论:当 “耶稣来站在他们当中”(20:19-20)时,彼得终于能将事件串连起来,并领悟到原封不动的细麻布与基督复活的意义。


大多数圣经学者都同意,必须从文化背景来解释其意义。在当时的希伯来人习俗中,卷着的餐巾在用餐环境中与主人和仆人有关。当仆人为主人摆好餐桌时,他确保餐桌完全符合主人的要求。一旦桌子摆放得完美无缺了,仆人,虽不在主人视线之内,就会等候主人用餐完毕。如果主人吃完了,他会站起离桌,擦拭手指、嘴巴和胡须,然后把餐巾卷起扔在桌子上,在脏的餐具或盘子间。然后,仆人将把桌子清理干净,因为揉成一团的餐巾表示着 “我已经吃完了”。

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”。




值得注意的是,在耶稣召唤我们服侍那些有需要帮助的人之前,经文一开始就是这样写的:“当人子在他荣耀里,同着众天使降临的时候……”(马太福音25:31)。事实上,整个马太福音25章都专注于祂的再次降临。首先,耶稣讲述十个童女的比喻(25:1-13),有关祂的再临,比喻的结语是 “你们要警醒,因为那日子、那时辰,你们不知道”。其次,基于第19节的按才受托的比喻(25:14-30)说:“过了许久,那些仆人的主人来了,和他们算账。”


耶稣的第二次降临对您有何意义? 您如何表达您对基督再来的盼望?


亲爱的耶稣,我们的主宰和主人,在我们期待着祢的再来的同时,帮助我们忠心地服侍祢,因为我们盼望在 “羔羊的婚宴”(启示录19:6-9)上与祢共餐。