The message from the tomb of Christ - James C. Bell

In the summer of 2000, my wife and I traveled to the Holy land of Israel with a group of Christians from our church. It was the trip of a lifetime! We had wanted to visit the land of our Savior for many years, but for one reason or another had not.

I was still recovering from the killer disease of acute leukemia, but felt strong enough to make the trip. There were so many places there we wanted to see: the birthplace of Jesus in the town of Bethlehem; the town of Capernaum by the sea of Galilee where Jesus spent so much of His time during His teaching life; the place of the skull, called Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, and the garden close by where He was buried.

The tomb was a new one, carved out of solid rock. The door was open, with the large round, stone, with which it was sealed at Jesus' burial, rolled back to one side. We had anticipated with great excitement going to this place and seeing the empty tomb.

Our interest and excitement peaked when we found we could actually enter the tomb! As we entered, immediately on the right, one could see the place where Jesus was laid. I had thought earlier that I would try to lie down in the very place where Jesus was put and then rise and walk out of the tomb as He did.

This was not possible, due to the iron fence from floor to ceiling, put there to prevent just such an action. We thanked God for His mighty power that had raised Jesus from the dead and made it possible for all who believe in Him to rise again after death, and to join Him and Jesus in Heaven, that wonderful place where we will live with Him foreve.

Please read chapters 19 and 20 in the book of John -- what the Holy Bible has to say about Jesus' death and resurrection. I want you to pay particular attention to chapter 20, verses 1-9. There is a mysterious message from Jesus told to us in verse 7-when Peter saw-"the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen."

Comments from the NIV Bible on this same verse says, "folded up. An orderly arrangement not in disarray, as would have resulted from a grave robbery." But what does this mean? Is it really important? Absolutely! It is really significant!

In order to understand the true significance of the folded cloth, one has to know about Hebrew traditions of that day. The folded napkin had to do with customs of the Master and servant. 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 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 had finished.

Now, if the master was done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers and mouth with that napkin and toss it on 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 knew that the folded napkin meant," I'm not done yet."

The folded napkin meant, "I'm coming back."

Could it be that Jesus was giving His disciples this same message? Was He saying-"I'm not dead, I'm alive and I'm coming back?"

Consider John 14:1 where Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me."

He further said in verse 2c, "I am going to prepare a place for you." And in 3b, He says, "I will come back and take you with me."

What a great promise. Are you ready for Christ's return? If so, rejoice!

If not, repent and get ready, for He is coming back!