In John 20, we learn that it was on the first day of the week that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. Mary Magdalene was the first one to discover that the stone was rolled away from the Lord’s sepulcher. She ran to tell Peter and John what she had seen. They both rushed to the tomb where we read in John 20:6-7, “Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.” The napkin was literally a handkerchief. The same Greek word is used in Acts 19:11-12, “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick HANDKERCHIEFS or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” It was common practice to wrap the head of the corpse with this napkin or handkerchief. When the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead, we read in John 11:44, “And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and HIS FACE WAS BOUND ABOUT WITH A NAPKIN. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.”

We might wonder why it was important for the Lord to inform us that even though the Lord Jesus had been raised from the dead, his grave clothes were left lying in the tomb. Let’s read Matthew 28:11-13, “Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.” After the Lord’s resurrection, the chief priests bribed the soldiers that guarded his tomb to report that the Lord’s disciples had stolen the Lord’s body while they slept. If someone had stolen the Lord’s body, they certainly would not have taken the time to unwrap his body before taking it. That would have been a tedious and time consuming event. No one stole the Lord’s body. He had been raised from the dead!

A story surfaced a few years on the Internet that alleged that folding the napkin at the dinner table was a Jewish custom that meant the person folding the napkin expected to return. In this story, the folded napkin was used to illustrate that the Lord was coming back. There are a couple of problems with this story. First, there is no such custom in Jewish history concerning a folded napkin. Second, John 20:7 does not say the napkin was folded. The verse tells us the napkin was ‘wrapped’. It was in the same position it was in when first wrapped around the Lord’s head. This indicates that the Lord, at His resurrection, rose through His burial clothes and through the tomb. John 20:1 tells us, “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth THE STONE TAKEN AWAY from the sepulchre.” That stone was not taken away so that the Lord could come out. It was taken away so that we might look in and realize that “the Lord is risen indeed.”

Before closing, I want to point out that there were two pieces of burial clothes for the Lord. One was a napkin and the other was the linen clothes. Some have insisted that the ‘Shroud of Turin’ is the actual shroud the Lord Jesus was buried in. If you have ever seen a picture of it, you see that it is one piece that covered the body and head of a corpse. This could not possibly have been the burial cloth of our dear savior.

While Satan and the world would occupy us with the Lord’s dead corpse, it is essential for us to realize that He is dead no longer. The Lord Jesus said of Himself in Revelation 1:18, “I am he THAT LIVETH, and WAS DEAD; and, behold, I AM ALIVE FOR EVERMORE, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (310.1)