We love food.
More than most people. I have had a hobby over the past few months of searching Grand Rapids, MI for the best food out there, specifically tacos. That’s the cool things about Grand Rapids, we have a greatly diverse culture and rich heritage of food.
I find it rather amazing how we can experience a culture by the food that we eat. We can sit down with people, share a meal that they grew up eating, and sit in their shoes for just a brief moment, and experience what they have had, as well as having that connection with them through the taste, the smell, and the experience of digging into a dish they’ve been eating for years. Not to mention the social interaction and bonding over sharing a meal is overwhelming.
This is a reason, I think, that Jesus shared meals with quite a few people. Jesus would share meals with tax-collectors, prostitutes, his disciples, because in order to share and minister to people effectively, it helps to build relationships with people.
He ate a meal with Matthew. (Matthew 9:9-19) He ate at Martha’s house. (Luke 10:38-42) He called Zacchaeus down from a tree to share a meal with him. (Luke 19:1-10) He provided food for, ate with the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-9) and with the 5,000. (Luke 9:10-17) Lastly, the famous last supper was an obvious one. (Matthew 26:26-29)
While sharing a meal is a cool experience, I think we lose sight of the actual significance during the biblical age.
If you were a royal back then, almost everyday, you would feast. These feasts would make your grandma’s thanksgiving look like a 10-piece McNugget meal with a small fry. I’m talking pounds and pounds of food. The most delicious delicacies of the age, the juiciest of meats, at the best wine of the area, sparing no expense. They didn’t care about the weight they gain. Weight was a sign of wealth and success, showing people you could afford to eat this way! They wanted to gain weight! What a time to be alive!
In the Gospel of John, we are told the story of the resurrection of Jesus.
“3 Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. 4 They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6 Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 7 while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. 8 Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— 9 for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.” John 20:1-10
When I read that, something stuck in my head. Look again in verse 7. The cloth that had been folded Jesus’ head was folded up by itself apart from the other wrappings. Why is this significant enough to be apart of the story of the empty tomb?
If you were royalty in this age, you had servants. These servants were commanded by the snap of the fingers, and each beckon call of the royals. Even so, that the royals had a certain custom, or tradition while eating meals with each other.
The royals who had servants and feasts would dine with a cloth, much like we do today. Typically these would be made out of cotton. These feasts would take a lengthy amount of time, being a social event. If they had to get up to take a leak, or step outside for some fresh air, or a smoke ,they had a certain code for their plates of food.
Much like today, if we are finished with our meal, then we would crumple our napkin and throw it on our plate. We’ve all done it. But one thing we don’t do, is fold it. In the biblical times feasts, if they were to leave their food, but weren’t done eating it yet, then they would fold their cloth, and set it on their plate, so their servants would not take their food away to clear the table.
Look at the parallel.
In John Chapter 20 Verse 7, this is a reference that we miss. Jesus is using their cultural custom to make an analogy to his servants. He left the burial cloth folded by by itself, separate from the others. He did this on purpose. Jesus is saying that He isn’t finished. He will be back to finish what He started.
Jesus won’t leave you. God won’t forsake you. He has gone to sit at the right hand of God, but He will come back to finish what he started. When you feel alone, or you feel like God has left you, remember the folded cloth Jesus left for you, and what He is saying to you:
He will be back to finish what He started.