Monday, May 20, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: A Symbol of Jesus Christ's Promise to Return

The Folded Napkin

A devotional by Nanci Rubin

“And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.” – John 20:7 (KJV)

A few weeks ago, the Christian Church formally and personally celebrated Easter. The resurrection of our Lord is a time of joy, re-birth and appreciation. Within theology and Christology, there is definitely a place for the historical Jesus and the cultural context within which he lived, alongside the divine person of Christ Jesus who gifts us with salvation and eternal life and lives within us through His Spirit.

Many years ago, my pastor at the time preached a sermon on the folded napkin, it so impressed me, that I never forgot. We have to consider that Jesus was a reflection in many ways of the culture within which he was born and lived.

Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after his resurrection? 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 other 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 the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. I can only imagine her fright and shock as she ran to find 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 laid him!” 
– John 20:2 (KJV) 

Peter and the other disciple took off running to the tomb so they could see for themselves. The other disciple being faster outran Peter and got there first. Cautiously he stooped and peered in. He saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in.

Then Simon Peter arrived, breathless and without hesitation, went inside the tomb. He was stunned to see the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side.

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

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, we need 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 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 dare not touch the table until the master was finished. Now if the master was finished eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers and mouth, clean his beard, and wad up the 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 finished.”

But if the master got up from the table, 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!”

Let us not only remember Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, but the fact that he did leave a folded napkin to symbolize that He is not finished and He is coming back for His faithful servants within His Church.

And Jesus commissioned His disciples after His resurrection and said to them, “I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” –Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

I am mindful when I eat out about the napkin. If I’ve enjoyed the meal and the service has been excellent, I always fold the napkin and place it by my plate. The establishment may not understand the significance of the folded napkin, but it is my way of saying, “I’m coming back.”

We not only have a hope, but a promise, because Jesus said He’s coming back.

My Prayer: Father (God), thank you for the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus, for all of humanity. Teach us, O Lord, to be kind and to love as Jesus taught. We will be your hands and feet on the earth and share the Good News of Jesus and the promise of the folded napkin. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

Author Bio:
Nanci is a poet and short story writer published in Cypress News, Family Times E-Zine, Free Verse and the Commonwealth of Poetry

She belongs to RWA, ACFW, and Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild where she’s enrolled in his novel writing program.

Nanci lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and cats, Romeo and Juliette, along with their newest member of the family, Roni who is a seven-month-old Goldendoodle.

Recently, Nanci completed her debut novel, A Betrayal in Cross Keys. It is an Amish romance. She has placed it in her agent's capable hands. The rest is up to God.

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