Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth?

Jesus at Tomb

Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection? I never noticed this….

The Gospel of John (20:7) tells us that the napkin, 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 at the head of that stony coffin.

Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, ‘They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!’

Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in.

Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side.

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Was that important? Absolutely! Is it really significant? Yes!

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, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition.

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 beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because….. ….

The folded napkin meant, ‘I’m coming back!’

13 thoughts on “Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth?”

  1. Your explanation is novel to me.

    I always thought the “napkin” on Jesus’ head was a tallit. This is according to ancient Jewish practice; the body is wrapped in linen and the head wrapped in the tallit.

    The Greek word soudarion means a towel, generally meaning a towel used for facial sweat. The King James translation is well rendered. But given the Jewish tradition, a complete understanding would indicate a tallit.

    Jesus refers to a tallit in at least one other scripture, Mark 5:41. He said to the dead girl, “Talitha cumi, ‘little girl arise’.” But “talitha cumi” is more exactly understood as an Aramaic expression, “The tallit arises.” Two things are apparent: The little girl’s parents spoke Aramaic (a language related to Hebrew); and some one had covered girl’s entire little body with a tallit. Jesus told the little girl to come back to life in a way which would be less frightening to her.

    You see, Jesus truly loved people. God does not want to scare us.

  2. It is important that we understand why the napkkin was folded and who folded it. But there is a greater concern and that is living out the WORD in your daily lives.
    Do you abid by these Scriptures: [1 Corinthians 5:8-12; 6:9- 13]
    Man seems to have the answer to everything except how to live a holy and sanctified life in CHRIST JESUS.
    see:Leviticus 11:44,45

  3. Moderation is a reltive term and applies according to those who determine it. Again my concern is righteous living according to the HOLY WORD of GOD[ELOHIM].

  4. JESUS did not speak Greek, all His discples were Hebrew and they spoke and understood the same languag which is Aramaic.

  5. The napkin is no major issue, but bias and racism blinds the ability to thinks clearly and rashionally. The HOLY BIBLE is viewed Caucasians as a Caucasian book. Blond and blue eye is not the look of the Hebrew people, however there are many people who have adopted the religion of Judaism but they are not Hebrew.Only the TRUTH will make you free [Jn.8:32].

  6. Thank you for your remarks.

    You are right that one must live righteously. Please bear in mind that God is the only source of righteousness. “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22) This fulfills what the prophet said, “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

    About Greek: There is Scriptural evidence Jesus spoke Greek, as found in Mark 7:24-30, where Jesus healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter. naturally, it is clear Jesus spoke Aramaic as well. Aramaic was the common tongue, as you noted. Note that when Jesus recited the sh’ma (The Greatest Commandment) in Mark 12:28-34, he would have recited it in Hebrew. So he had studied and mastered speaking at least three languages.

    Since I am not Caucasian, I do not know how they perceive the Bible’s depiction of Jesus. Believers do not seem surprised that Jesus is a Hebrew of the line of David.

    Nonetheless, your final statement is correct, the Truth shall make you (and me) free. For, Truly, He is the Son of God.

  7. I get emotional when I read about the shroud of turin.I can picture what CHRIST went through for mankind.thank you JESUS

  8. I believe that if we look at something long enough it can become a folded napkin meaning “The folded napkin meant, ‘I’m coming back!’” This to me is not truth just a feeling a belief if you will. Saying something in the Bible as definitive and it not being remarked on again is pure speculation. It is a lovely thought though. Oh I am a White Male in my 40s the thought that my Savior is black, brown, olive or any other color does not bother me I love Him (A Jew)and if thats color great!

  9. Regarding the folded napkin as indicative of Christ’s return is a comforting thought but hardly convincing as factual. To allude to a dinner/food napkin almost seems ludicrous by the way (not to mention the over emphasis of the servant boy’s expected behavior, etc.). If I felt this as a valid interpretation in the least, as regarding Jesus’ promise, I would like proof positive that this was indeed specifically a Hebrew custom and as from that specific time frame. This information is offered up in a much too general platform to suit me. But I will admit that sentence in scripture seemingly deliberately making note of the “napkin” as not “wrapped” with the rest of the linen coverings is interesting to ponder upon. Thus definitely research into the burial procedures would hopefully be helpful. In the meantime though, no way can I accept the table habits as explanation.

  10. The story about the master/servant is merely a myth. There is no historical evidence of this, besides the fact that Peter and John were fishermen who most likely did NOT have servants. Here is the significance of the folded napkin. It was an empty mummy head that John saw. It was ‘rolled up’ with strips of linen cloths held together by the 70-100 pounds of ointment. This is why John believed Jesus rose from the dead. John and Peter saw an empty mummy. This had to be a miracle. Jesus’ body was not stolen, it passed right through this rolled up mummy and left it behind. They could see inside of it because the head was separated and off to the side!

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