Why Did Jesus Fold the Napkin? …Hello Hump Day readers. I hope your Holy Week and Easter were filled with the incredible grace of God and the power of Jesus’ resurrection. There isn’t anything that tops it! My devotion today does take us back this last week and the reason is, the Napkin! Let me explain. There is a wonderful story about Jesus’ linen cloth but I have had the dickens of a time finding it until it popped up from a friend on Facebook—who’d a thought?!

It isn’t a story that probably circulates much, but I found it and now I got it. The question I have, along with many others is, “Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth (napkin) after His resurrection?” It’s rare than anyone probably thinks about this, but as a writer this kind of stuff is what I like to read! So, bear with me one more time on that first Easter Day.

If you go to John’s Gospel in chapter 20:6-7, you’ll find it. I like The Voice translation of this: “When Simon Peter finally arrived, he went into the tomb and observed the same: the cloth that covered His face appeared to have been folded carefully and placed, not with the linen cloths, but to the side.”

What interests me about this is that the Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed separate from the grave clothes. Again, this begs why this particular ‘napkin’ episode was so important. One would think not, but it is indeed significant and important. Why? Here’s the story:

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 and the family knew this tradition. So, 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. The servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished. If the master was done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, clean his beard, and wad up his napkin and toss it onto the table. And that is when the servant would know to clear the table. 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 (not on the plate), the servant would not dare touch the table, because the folded napkin meant, ‘I’m coming back!’

Now you get it don’t you? Jesus knew all those traditions. From the moment he could read Joseph would teach his son the traditions of his lineage. It was important at that time and right here, in a little crook in John’s Gospel, Jesus uses what his earthly father taught him. No Jewish man (or family) would ignore the napkin on the table! It’s either “I’m done” or “I’m coming back.”

On Good Friday, Jesus cried out “It is finished” telling us this death was done, but life was right around the corner. The napkin placement had to shout out to Peter and John, as well as the women, telling them that Jesus wasn’t done and gone, but coming back, just like he said he would. On Easter morning the women went into the tomb only to find out Jesus was not there. They didn’t hesitate when the angel told them Jesus was alive. Did they see the napkin? They took off right away to tell the disciples who were hiding. “He is alive!” they shouted to them. Then they went to the tomb to see. Surely they would have seen that napkin; but they remained fearful—until Jesus walked through the walls of the place they were bunkered in. Maybe they might have thought of that napkin then? I’m not sure, but the surprise of a ‘Jesus alive’ changed everything for them and you and I.

I love cloth napkins—paper ones aren’t soft—they fall apart, which is kind of like us some days. We love Jesus, we celebrate his resurrection, but when we fall apart we wonder, “Jesus, where are you, can I count on you?” Like the cloth napkin, yes you can, every single day of your life. You’re not done until Jesus says you are and that will happen when he takes us up to heaven—done with sin, done with a world gone crazy, it will all be over–Hallelujah! So, go get some colorful cloth napkins. Let them remind you of the resurrection power Jesus has given you, and you can do what Jesus did, fold that napkin with confidence and remember, the napkin Jesus folded is still folded today. Why? So we would know He wasn’t done. In fact, He was just beginning! AMEN.