Why was the Napkin that covered the face of Jesus folded?


In the Gospel of John we read about this napkin that covered the face of Jesus


John 20-7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.


John takes a whole verse in his gospel to specify this. As every verse in the Bible is useful for doctrine and understanding there too must be some relevance to this verse.


So what does it mean?


There is a claim that has been made regarding the face cloth that was used to cover the face of Jesus in the tomb. It states that in Jewish tradition when a master had eaten his meal he would leave the table and screw up his napkin on the table.This would indicate that he had finished and his servants would know that they could now clean the table. If he had intentions of returning he would neatly fold the napkin and this would indicate that he was to return. Jesus folded his napkin to indicate that he was going to return.

The full post as I received it is as follows.


Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection? I never noticed this…SOOOO GLAD I TOOK THE TIME TO READ THIS!

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 grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed separate 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!

Is it really significant? Yes!

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have 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 that 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, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished. Now, if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that 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 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!’



Hallelujah wow what a revelation .This sounds fascinating and certainly appeals to the emotions.When I first read this myself I was taken aback.   But the important question to ask here is …IS IT TRUE????? It sounds good so it must be true is not a constructive way of deciphering truth from a lie. We must not allow ourselves to be swayed by emotion  or by words that appeal to our emotions and make us feel good. We must base what we hold as biblical truth based on the Bible.


The reality that actually this is not true . No matter how exhilarating this sounds and I admit it myself, it does, no matter how much we would like it to be true and again I admit it would be nice if it were. This tradition is not used in Jewish culture today and there is no biblical or historical evidence to support such a custom having ever been practiced.

There are no ancient Hebrew writings or any writings of other cultures or indeed any writings at all attesting to this custom being observed by the Jewish people beyond the claim itself which seems to have first appeared on the internet around 2007.

The claim itself is not evidence for the claim.


This alone is enough to simply dismiss the claim as fictional. A nice story but a story nonetheless. It takes a truth such as the return of Jesus and make no mistake he is coming back, and makes it sound nice. It might be used light heartedly amongst believers as a quirky way of saying Jesus said he would return but I certainly wouldn’t advocate preaching it as truth to anyone especially as a tool to evangelise as it may very well turn and bite you on the bum, many non christians are very well versed on such claims and may well in turn use this claim against the person using it…simply by asking for proof.


There are also some other problems with this claim.


Firstly the Bible NEVER says that Jesus folded the face cloth.

This was not a food napkin…..Jesus hadnot just finished eating……this was a burial face cloth….Jesus had just risen from the dead…………not much more to say on this point.


Jesus had risen and later appeared to his disciples it doesn’t make sense at all that he would rise be seen yet have left his cloth folded to indicate he would return. If this was done before his ascension then it would be more logical.

So if the claim behind the folding of the cloth is not true why did John mention the cloth at all?


Well the honest answer is there isn’t a definitive answer. However it is far more logical and biblical that the statement by John was used to demonstrate that the body had not been stolen but that the resurrection had taken place.


The Jewish authorities were worried that because Jesus had claimed that he would rise again that the followers of Jesus would steal his body and claim that Jesus had risen.


Matthew 27- 62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.


They even went as far as paying the guards to state this is what happened. Jesus had been stolen while they slept.


Matthew 28 –11Now 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. 12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, 13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. 14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. 15So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.


However, the “stolen” body had been removed from the linen that it had been wrapped in. The “thieves” had taken the time to remove the burial linen and taken just the body. This is the point that John was making. That no thief would take the time to do this. It’s far more logical that any thief in fear of being caught especially in such a case as the man who claimed to be the Messiah and seeing that they were expecting a theft, would not have had the time or the inclination to do such a thing.


When the disciple who didn’t know the scripture regarding the resurrection saw the tomb he believed.


John 20- 8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 9For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.


The linen had not been unwrapped yet the body was not inside the linen. This was all the evidence that the disciples needed that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.


Just like Jesus hadn’t needed the stone to have been removed from the tomb in order to leave the tomb, he didn’t need to be unwrapped from his burial cloths to be free of them, unlike Lazzarus who had come out off his tomb still wrapped in his burial cloths and required others help.

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.


This was all stated so that we would know Jesus had risen and not been stolen and that his resurrection was unlike that of Lazarus.

Jesus is risen and he is coming back.


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