The Christ of the Folded Napkin

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My friend and fellow Touchstone senior editor Patrick Henry Reardon wrote something that prompted me to shut down my computer and pray.

In his “Pastoral Ponderings” email, Reardon notes the Apostle John’s mention in his resurrection account that the kerchief which had been on Jesus’ face “not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself” (John 20:7). Reardon writes:

“That instant of the Resurrection of Jesus was the most decisive moment in the history of the world. It was the event of deepest importance for every human being who ever lived. It was the supreme kairos. The Law and the Prophets were fulfilled in that moment, and the existence of the human race took on an utterly new meaning.

“What, however, was the first thing Jesus did when the Resurrection life came surging into His body? The simplest and plainest thing imaginable: He reached up, pulled the kerchief from His face, folded it, and set it aside, as though it had been a napkin used at breakfast.”

Reardon concludes by writing this:

“The universal Christ, the eternal Word in whom all things subsist, was still the same Jesus, to whom an act of elementary neatness came naturally. He spontaneously did what He would likely have done in any case, much as another man might unconsciously scratch his ear, or yet another look around for a stick to whack the weeds with as he walked along.

“The risen Lord was the same Jesus His friends had always known. He had just returned from the realm of hell, where He trampled down death by death. He was on the point of going forth as a giant to run His course. He was about to begin appearing to His disciples, providing them with many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

“Nonetheless, He was still the same person, whose instinctive habits remained identical. First, He took a moment to fold the kerchief He had used, and only then did He stride out to change the direction of history and transform the lives of human beings.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever given any thought to the face kerchief in that empty tomb before. But this word prompted me to pray, and to thank God for a Messiah who is not just Christ but Jesus. He is a Person, with practices and habits. He can be known.

Praise be to God for the Christ of the folded napkin.

Only when we see how lost we are, we can find our way again. Only when we bury what’s dead can we experience life again. Only when we lose our religion can we be amazed by grace again.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Editor in Chief of Christianity Today and is the author of the forthcoming book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America (Penguin Random House).