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

The Gospel of John tells us that the cloth, 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 cloth was neatly folded and was placed separately from the grave clothes. 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. Was that important? Absolutely!   

In order to understand the significance of the folded cloth, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded cloth had to do with the master and servant, and every Jewish child 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. Then the servant would wait, out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would touch the table, until the master was finished. Now, if the master had finished eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and his beard, and would wad up that serviette 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!'  

The folded cloth in the tomb meant that Jesus has come back! the passage from John is integral to our faith because it is about the Resurrection.  

Christ’s resurrection is the basis of our faith. Without it our faith doesn’t make any sense! 

The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of our hope; our own stones rolled away. Our Saviour meets us personally and intimately at unexpected times and places; and when we meet Him, our grief and doubt are overcome. We are free to live fully in all circumstances. Our life has meaning. 

 Early on that first Easter Sunday morning, Mary expected to find death, but instead she found new life. This new life awaits us too. We have stood there looking into the empty tomb experiencing the impossible. We don’t go looking for resurrection. It finds us. 

Jesus’ resurrection is about God loving us so much that she is willing to go to any length to find us. Like Mary, we go looking for God in the familiar, in the places where we expect to find God. In Jesus’ resurrection God finds us when we are down and out, when we are at the end of our rope, when we have experienced profound loss, when we have lost hope. God rolls back the stones that weigh us down. For us too, Jesus is the unexpected and familiar voice that calls us to new life and to “go and tell” others what we have experienced. 

Like Mary, when Jesus calls our name, we will recognize His voice. But we must remember to keep seeking Him and choosing to be with Him even if He seems to be missing. We have not lost Him because He can never lose us. 

So how do we get close to God and stay close to him? First, we do so by prayer. The person who stays close to God is the one who is always talking to God. Second, we do it by studying the Scriptures. God’s word is alive with meaning, it is a living word, and when we read it, something will happen to us. Third, we do it by sharing with others. Nothing is ours if we do not share it. When we share, God’s presence in us grows deeper. We have to share what God is doing, both with our fellow Christians and with others too, not so much with words but through our actions, through our love for them. In the four Gospels, half of the references to people running occur in the Resurrection stories. Their urgency was due to excitement. As Jesus’ disciples today we should live our faith with the same enthusiasm. 

The risen Christ longs to be in relationship with us. In return, He will be with us everywhere and all the time. He will be with us in the good times and in the tough times. He doesn’t promise that we will be immune from the problems of this life. He does promise that He will go ahead of us. He meets us along the way of life’s journey. Sometimes the harsh realities of life are so overwhelming that we forget Jesus is alive. But this is the message of Easter; he has conquered death, and our future is safe in His hands. 

After the resurrection, many people did not recognize Jesus. Mary thought he was the gardener. Do we recognize him when we meet him? Do we see him in the people we encounter?  Will others meet Jesus in us? Because that is where the risen Christ lives.   

Theologian Jürgen Moltmann puts it like this: “Believing in the resurrection does not just mean assenting to a dogma and noting a historical fact. It means participating in this creative act of God’s … Resurrection is not a consoling opium, soothing us with the promise of a better world in the hereafter. It is the energy for a rebirth of this life. The hope doesn’t point to another world. It is focused on the redemption of this one.” 

Mary came to the tomb that first Easter morning, having experienced a profound loss. She had no expectation except to be close to the place where Jesus’s body had been laid. At first, she didn’t recognize Jesus but because she already had a close relationship with him, she recognized him when he said her name. He reassured her “why are you weeping?” and then he sent her. Go and tell the others what you have seen and experienced. She was the apostle to the apostles, the first one to preach the good news of the risen Christ.