In respect to Easter, best seek which is right around the corner, advice I ran across an amazing interpretation of a verse in the Bible the other day. My sister-in-law, Susanne, sent it from her Christian School in Los Angeles. Of all things, it is about the face cloth that was put on Jesus’ face while he lay in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb after his death on the cross. The verse comes from John 20:7 and reads, “And the face cloth which had been on His head, was not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.” To get a full perspective surrounding this verse, read the entire resurrection passage in the Gospel of John (recorded at the end of this writing). This seemingly insignificant verse illustrates what it could mean if you understand the Hebrew language and culture of the day. But before I share with you a possible interpretation, and hopefully lasting thought, there are a few important questions I want to pose. Why was the face cloth rolled up and put in its place after Jesus rose from the dead and left the tomb? Why was it not just thrown to the side like the other linen wrappings? Finally, was Jesus just being neat and tidy upon leaving the tomb or was there a meaning behind Him neatly folding the face cloth and putting it at the head of the stone table?
In response, let me share with you a custom many Hebrews practiced during that day and age. The folded cloth had to do with a master and his servant at dinner time, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for his master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly and 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. Now, if the master was done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard with a cloth (napkin), and would wad it up and toss it onto the table
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. 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 rolled up (folded) his cloth and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table because the rolled up napkin meant, “I’m coming back!”
In respect to this custom, perhaps what Jesus was saying when He rolled up His facial cloth and neatly put it back on the stone table in the tomb was, “I will be back,” which is exactly what He promised and the Scripture records in the fourth chapter of the Epistle Thessalonians.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
HE IS COMING BACK!
WILL YOU BE READY TO GO WITH HIM?
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture that He must rise again from the dead. So the disciples went away again to their own homes. But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
I leave you with the traditional Easter poem I send out at this time of year in memory of a great friend of mine, Bob Gray. He had a difficult childhood that caused him to believe he had no value to God or others. He tried many times to make a success of his life, but according to the world’s standards, he felt he was a failure. But he was not, as I told him many times, and in fact there were many great things Bob could do and writing poems was one of them. He wrote this poem for me right before he died a number of years ago. I hope you enjoy it as I did then and do now.
Have a wonderful Easter and let me hear from you,
Who blocks the sun?
His race has ended,
Our race begun.
The veil is rent,
It is finished,
His life’s blood spent.
Down it trickles,
That precious flow,
To those below.
Then cut down
A tomb to lay.
For one more day.
That new day’s done,
They came to Him,
But He has gone.
Freeing us all,
From Satan’s prison,
He is risen!
Reigning with God,
His rightful place.
Oh soon we’ll see,
His precious face.”