Month 1:29, Week 4:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5936:029 AM|
SHABBAT 1:4, Omer Count Sabbath #2
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 20 April 2012
A Napkin of Witness
The Third Sign of the Resurrection
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el!
The Aviv Month of Blossoms is soon over and tomorrow we start the second month of the sacred year. With so much going on in the world, so much darkness and with so many needs that people have, it's sometimes hard to focus to know what Yahweh's message is. As the world rushes towards the financial, political and social abyss and as you consider how almost no one is prepared, it's almost too painful just trying to picture what the world will look like by this time next year. When it comes to collapse then every family will have to stand for itself. So again, I ask you most soberly: are you prepared? Even at this very late hour, it is still possible to do something and to minimise the suffering to come.
But first of all it is important to get the spiritual life right. Waiting in the wings and ready to supplant the true faith is a counterfeit one that is going to come to prominence over the next and last generation. It's potency will lie in the way that it combines spirituality with high-tech and so-called exobiology. It's proponents, currently still in a relatively small minority, are already expectantly talking about the 'paradigm shift' that will lead to a new awareness and state of consciousness. New gods - in reality very ancient ones being rebirted in new garb tailored for 21st century tastes - are waiting in the wings to walk the stage. A 'new' religious language will enter the scene, and even though it isn't really new, it will seem new for the masses starving for something real to replace the failed system that is being replaced. What you are seeing in the Hollywood movies is a foretaste of what is to come.
Ever since I preached to you on The Secret of Divine Alchemy during the first Chag haMatzah, Yahweh has been making me aware of the need for a paradigm-shift of our own. Though the emet (truth) of the Besorah (Gospel) remains constant and unchanging, it is about to be jacked up into a new level of awareness too that will also contain its own 'divine science'. Things that have not been seen or done since the days of the biblical patriarchs - and I am speaking of those before the Great Flood - will be seen again and experienced by those willing to receive them.
In the months and years ahead the Body of Messiah is going to have to learn a new language and learn how to spot the enemy's counterfeits with ever greater precision than before. Education is essential, not the filtered material that forcefed the masses at schools and in the media, but what really matters. Every father needs to know what's going on and to teach his family. This is a new patriarchal era we are entering in which church and synagogue will be universally discredited as either failing to adhere to the Scriptures and failing to resist state infiltration. What we provide here is, and will be, we hope, this kind of schooling in plain emet (truth).
The Napkin of Witness
Today's sabbath message was given to me several days ago and concerns a napkin. Now you all know what a napkin is though mostly you will be familiar with the paper rather than the cloth variety. As opposed to handkerchiefs which anciently were cloths used for wiping perspiration or sweat off the body and which have pretty much fallen into disuse in the 21st century with all the anti-perspirant chemicals we spray on, wash in, and roll onto our bodies, table napkins today as anciently continued to be provided at dinner tables for keeping the mouth and fingers clean.
After the crucifixion of our Master, Mary Magdalene slipped out of her home with some spices to visit the tomb. Upon arriving there she was surprised to find that the huge circular tombstone had been rolled away. Not long before she was present when the tomb was sealed with this massive stone that required many strong men to move and witnessed the Roman soldiers put on sentry duty. These soldiers knew that they had to remain awake for if they fell asleep on guard they knew that such dereliction of duty always meant certain death for them. But now they were gone. Seeing the tomb was empty, she ran with all her might back to the room in the city where the talmidim (disicples) were hiding and fearful of their own arrest and execution. She burst into the room and, short of breath and in a state of great excitement mingled with fear, announced that the body had been removed, supposing the Romans or the Judeans had stolen it, and calling for Peter to come with her to see for himself, to be joined by John.
The younger apostle, John, who was a teenager, was soon ahead of the other two, but upon arriving at the tomb first and glancing inside, deferred to the senior apostle, Peter, who stooped inside:
John followed after and many years later recorded that astonishing moment and, speaking of himself, said:
"...saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief (napkin) that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself" (John 20:6-7, NKJV).
What was it that caused John to believe? Most assume that he saw the linnen wrappings and the absent body and concluded that He was resurrected as Yah'shua (Jesus) had prophesied that He would be. And there is no doubt that this is true. He must have concluded that from these two pieces of evidence. But I want to suggest to you that there is a third piece of evidence, just as startling and just as important which we pretty much overlook when we read this account.
"...he (John) saw and he believed" (Jn.20:8, NKJV).
The Torah teaches us that "by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established" (Deut.19:15, NKJV), that is, at least two or three concrete lines of evidence; and given that the resurrection is such an important emet (truth) of the Besorah (Gospel) you would have thought that Yahweh would be generous in providing us with at least three lines of evidence and not just two.
Well, He did. Not only was the body missing, not only was the burial linen lying where Yah'shua (Jesus) had lain, but John goes to great trouble to point out that "the handkerchief (napkin) that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself" was there too. Why the attention to this detail, for which John was noted? And why go to the trouble of letting us know that it was neatly folded and set aside separately from the burial cloth? This is the third line of testimony that I am speaking of.
Every word of scripture is meaningful and so is this one. Some translations say this napkin, facecloth or handkerchief was rolled up, as we used to when I was a boy to put it into a napkin ring, others that it was folded, and then put in a place all by itself.
If you had been invited for a meal in the home of a Torah-observant Judean family in the first century when Yah'shua (Jesus) and the apostles lived, you would have found yourself reclining at a law table, and eating with your fingers the food that the woman of the household had prepared. There were no utensils in those days - no knives, forks or spoons - so you would have been given quite a large square of linen with which to wipe your mouth and hands as you leisurely and unhurriedly ate your meal.
In those days where rabbinical law prevailed, all sorts of rules of etiquette were strictly adhered to. When I was young, cutlery, crockery, glasses and napkins all had to be arranged in a certain way, with special forks and knives if fish was served, and with the cultery arranged in a particular order if there were several courses. I have lived in many cultures throughout my life where all kinds of different rules of etiquette were followed. We dined with Malays, Chinese, Indians and Europeans and all set table differently. With Tamil friends we too ate with our hands, as the early Judeans did, and were provided with a bowl of water to wash our fingers in. In fact, our crockery consisted of large banana leaves that were thrown away at the end of the meal - no washing up required! Even in cultures that are similar, like British, American, Norwegian and Swedish, there are variations in eating customs both between countries and within them, depending on your class, status and so on. As believers, these differences are, of course, not as important to us as simply enjoying intimate fellowship. I sometimes wonder what was provided when the Elders of Israel ate with Yahweh on Mt.Sinai - I am sure it was a very simple affair even though the Host was the King of the Universe.
To understand the Bible properly and to see how local customs were used as illustrations by the Master so that the common man could relate and understand, you do need to know something about the traditions of the people of the times. But let us go back to our first century Judean table where the customs and rites were being followed, the guest respecting and observing these traditions, and as we should provided they do not force us to compromise some scriptural emet (truth).
If, as a guest, at this Judean table, you had found the meal delicious and the fellowship agreeable, at the end of the meal you would have taken the napkin that had been provided for your use and you would have rumpled it casually at your sitting place before leaving the dining area of the house, much as in Arab cultures today you express your satisfaction by giving a loud burp, or here in Scandinavia where you repeat the words, "Takk for maten!" - "Thank you for the food!" to which the host replies, "Vær så god!" - "You're most welcome!".
But in first century Judea there was also a ritual in which the guest could express dissatisfaction. If he had been insulted through a lack of appropriate courtesies, if the food had been disgusting, or if the conversation stilted and tense - in other words, if he had not enjoyed the evening - the expected response was for the guest to take his napkin, roll it or fold it in the exact way he had found it upon sitting at the table, and to set it to one side in a plain and obvious manner. By this ritualistic gesture, you would be saying to your host and to everyone else present that you would never return to this house again! This practice was well known in Yah'shua's (Jesus') day.
Can you now, perhaps, understand the third piece of evidence that caught John's eye when he entered the tomb, and how this, combined with the other two evidences, convinced him that the Master was risen? When Yah'shua (Jesus) rose from the dead, well aware that many Judean eyes would look into the empty tomb, He took the time and care to fulfil a very common and well understood custom to leave a pointed message. He took the napkin that had been over His face, folded or rolled it in the prescribed manner and laid it to one side to leave a clear and unmistakable testimony to the disbelieving House of Judah which said: "I will never come here again!" He was, in effect, saying: "I was not well treated. I did not enjoy this experience. I will never eat with you again, and I will never come back until you repent!"
Of course, He came back to visit with His Judahite brethren in the emunah (faith) and spent 40 days with them after His resurrection, as He does to all who trust in Him and obey His mitzvot (commandments). But what this message clearly states is that Yah'shua (Jesus) will never suffer the humiliation of crucifixion at the hands of this dead unsaved House of Judah again, never again will He suffer their murderous insults, never again will He lie in a tomb of their making. Can there be any doubt now that Yah'shua (Jesus) has rejected those who refuse to believe Him and accept His Kingship who are of the House of Jacob - whether Judahite or any other part - who claim to be "the apple of His eye" (Dt.32:10) simply because of descent? And what of those whose claim to Israelite descent is false? Then they have double reason not to suppose that they will ever be accepted as they are!
If you are still trapped by the lie that is Zionism - that Yahweh has two sets of believers - the Jews and the Christians, or any other combination, now is the time to repent of that error and to end your double-mindedness (Jas.1:8). That poignant folded napkin in the tomb was the final witness that the non-Messianic House of Judah was permanently rejected, and had only been spared following the Babylonian Captivity so that messianic prophecy in the Tanakh (Old Testament) could be fulfilled and so that the true remnant of the House of Judah could be saved who were the living descendants of that Captivity in Messiah's days. May Yah'shua (Jesus) not fold our napkin when He has spiritually dined at our because He found our spiritual food distasteful, our hospitality insulting, or our conversation unkosher!
Please, examine yourselves carefully, if you claim to be a follower of Messiah, as Paul commanded:
Next time you eat the Pesach (Passover) Meal or partake of the Lord's Supper, consider the napkin that is placed at your place and how you would like Yah'shua (Jesus) to leave His in your House. No, that folded napkin in the tomb was not just an incidental item like a crumb on the floor. It was not an insignificant detail. It is evidence that demands a verdict rolled up in a piece of linen.
"For I received from the Master that which I also delivered to you: that the master Yah'shua (Jesus) on the same night in which He was betrayed took lechem (bread); and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My dahm (blood). This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this lechem (bread) and drink this cup, you proclaim the Master's death till He comes.
"Therefore whoever eats this lechem (bread) or drinks this cup of the Master in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and dahm (blood) of the Master. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the lechem (bread) and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Master's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Master, that we may not be condemned with the world. Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come" (1 Cor.11:23-34, NKJV).
May we all soberly reflect on these things. Amen.
Barbara Richmond, Jewish Insights into the New Testament (1996)
Comments from Readers
"Excellent!" (AH, Sweden, 20 April 2012)