"Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, (7) as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. (8) Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside. He saw and believed."
Of the four accounts of the Gospel, Matthew is the only one that really lays out the drama of the crucifixion and the resurrection - the 3 hours of darkness -Christ's blood curdling screams - the earthquake - the tearing of the veil - opening of graves of many saints and his relating before hand of the saints leaving their graves as Christ resurrected. Please read Mark 16:1. As you do so remember that Jewish time was from 6 P.M. to 6 P.M., not from midnight to midnight. Matthew is so excited - making mention of all of the Calvary wonders, except for this one, the fifth one, the miraculously undisturbed grave clothes.
How quickly humans forget! The women did not remember that Jesus had repeated that AFTER three days he would resurrect. Being our sacrificial lamb (John 1:29) Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, Nisan 15, which was the annual date for the Passover lamb. After the women expressed their alarm, Peter and John went to the tomb. John out ran Peter, arrived first, but stopped to stare in. But Peter, the impetuous one, ran right in and saw Jesus' grave clothes lying there undisturbed and His head handkerchief folded, lying there undisturbed. Just to acquaint us with the exact arrangement of the clothes is the sole purpose of these first 9 verses of John 20. His detailed narrative shows how important it was that Christ's grave clothes lay there undisturbed and the head handkerchief neatly folded undisturbed.
One can readily see the impression the scene had upon John. He "saw and believed."
Believed what? Magdalene's story of the body not being there? Hardly. Seeing the body gone was sufficient to believe that. Just think about it, what did the arrangement of the clothes have to do with seeing that the body was not there? YET IT REALLY WAS THAT ARRANGEMENT THAT CAUSED JOHN TO BELIEVE. So expressive of a divine intervention was the arrangement, that John became an instant convert to the truth of the Lord's resurrection. Both John and Peter saw the linen clothes lying, not merely remaining on the floor of the tomb, but lying there precisely as the body had lain. And the napkin or handkerchief had not been unfolded, indicating it had not been taken off the head, but that the head had been taken from out of it, leaving the napkin undisturbed.
There were two things at play here: FIRST: Christ's resurrected body was a spiritual body, not a raised body like Lazarus, whom Christ raised, therefore Christ passed through the graves clothes and napkin and the stone sepulcher. SECOND: the custom of the time was when feasting, should the guest leave not to return, he wadded the napkin up and left it on his plate. However, if he was returning, the napkin was left neatly folded to one side. Christ left his napkin neatly folded. No fastenings were undone, no folds disturbed. No change in position - meaning I WILL RETURN!
Dr. Luke's description of the scene is harmonious, though brief and to the point: "Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves. . . . "  Luke 24:12 (NIV). No allusion to the handkerchief, just that the linen clothes were "by themselves", meaning the body was not there. Jesus' natural body had dissolved, as it were, within the wrappings and merged into the spiritual body. This was a transmutation that no fastenings could tie down, of such buoyancy of life that it could no longer linger amid the associations of death. The body vanished from within the grave clothes, and moved on its way through the walls of the sepulcher, from which the great stone door had not as yet been removed.
Our Lord's resurrection is proclaimed everywhere throughout scripture. But, nowhere is the very act itself described, such as "THEN HE AROSE AND LEFT THE TOMB." No, not at all. It is always merely "He is risen!". It has all the footprints of God. Those silent memorials! Those shriveled clothes! All so undisturbed as though by force of their unbroken adjustments still clinging at the vanished body -- such a condition of things was as much a testimony to the power of God as were the dry shores of the fish ponds where I grew up in Louisiana, whose waters floated upward in the invisible mist to form the clouds of heaven. Only in this case, the power of God was miraculously present.
Perfection in all its parts was a demonstration, ". . . .that nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37 (NIV) FIRST: Jesus had really died, was buried, which John personally knew. Now he is reminded of it by seeing the clothes which had been wrapped around Christ's dead body. SECOND: the body was missing from the tomb after the third day. Passover always started on Nisan 15. That year it was on Wednesday. The Hebrews offered their sacrifice at 3 P.M., the same time Christ was on the cross -- our Perfect Sacrifice. John now saw the proof for himself, the clothes lying there by themselves -- but no body within!! THIRD: John clearly saw that the body had not been removed by any human agency. This he clearly perceived in the miraculous arrangement of the clothes.
But, what is the historical argument? FIRST: that Jesus really died and was buried -- the Jews, the Romans and the disciples were equally satisfied. SECOND: on the third evening Christ's body was missing from the tomb. THIRD: the body was not taken away by His disciples. It was impossible to break through the Roman guard. These three points were obvious then and have always been fundamental historical arguments. They contain in themselves alone, a demonstration of fact, such as scarcely any fact in history has ever enjoyed having.
We can glean other teachings from that wondrous scene. That this is a Calvary sign is immediately apparent. What other death in all of history had such a following? Did He not say "I come to give my life a ransom for sinners"? Did He not come to be made a curse for us? Did He not come to deliver us from every disability and introduce us into the perfected blessedness of the resurrection? By the evidence of those grave clothes, Christ became the first instance of completed deliverance from sin and death, the fore-runner of the risen man. Jesus not only will not die again, but He gives eternal life to all who accept His death and shed blood for the remission of their sins, and RSVP, calling upon Him as their Lord and Savior -- then will man's dream of perfection be realized in our eternal abode with Him.

a Thought Across The Garden Gate by Parson Don.





Updated March 31, 2010
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