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I can't remember where I heard this explanation but it was said that it was neatly folded and apart from the rest of the burial garments to prove that the body had not been stolen, as was the myth the Pharisees wanted to propogate. That the garments were in different areas of the tomb and that the facial garmet was neatly folded indicates a deliberate departure, such as the one Jesus made. If someone (or people) had stolen the body, they most likely would not have left any of the burial clothes behind since they would want to get in and out of there as quickly as possible and they sure would not have taken the time to fold up anything neatly. It defies the "stolen body" theory of unbelievers and skeptics.
This sort of detail adds to the authenticity of John's claim to have been an actual eye-witness to the empty tomb. (1 John 1:1-3) Peter also observed the same thing (Luke 24:12) Who else but someone who saw the empty tomb with his own eyes would think to mention it? Beyond that, permit me to add two personal thoughts: If I woke up and found a towel wrapped around my head, I would most likely unwrap it, fold it neatly and put it aside before I left. If I was stealing a body from under the noses of Roman guards, being neat and meticulous would be dangerous and time-wasting and the last thing I would be concerned about. The actual state of the grave clothes overall would "speak" against this. Nobody could have removed the body from the wrappings and left them in such a state. Remember, this was Joseph of Arimathea's tomb (Matt 27:57-66). The women didn't touch anything. The disciples didn't touch or remove anything either. Others would have come and observed the state of the tomb later, when it was cleaned up. It is ultimately of small consequence. Focus on Jesus. As the angel said "why are you looking for the Living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen!" Luke 24:5-6
It could be that this cloth was used to hold the jaw in place until rigor mortis had done its job. This would give the body the dignity of lying without his mouth wide open. It shows that the people who laid him to rest believed that Jesus was really dead. It could also cast doubt upon the claim that the Shroud of Turin is the actual burial cloth of Jesus. It is also a reminder that the Lord Jesus loves a sense of order - both in death and in life.
As for the napkin being folded I read somewhere that it was part of a Jewish custom that when the dinner table was set for the master of the house by the servant everything including plates, utensils, cups and a folded napkin were set out neatly and in their place on the table. The servant would wait outside the door for the master to consume the meal. If the servant checked the dinner table and the master was gone and the napkin have been balled up and put to the side that was an indication that the master was through with the meal and the servant was then free to come in and clear the table. If the napkin was still neatly folded on the table by the setting it meant that the master was not through and would return. The significance of this custom as it pertains to the folded napkin in Christ's tomb was that he was not finished and he would one day return to Earth at his second coming.
It's my understanding that a Jewish custom was that if one was to eat and when finished left a folded napkin, that was an indicator that the meal was not satisfactory and that I would not be returning!
The scene in the empty tomb was evidence of a very calm and orderly process, rather than that of a burglarized tomb, from which the body of Jesus was hastily stolen -- from a sealed tomb, guarded by soldiers. ~ Bob Deffinbaugh, Pastor
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