Jesus Didn’t Stumble from the Tomb

What does it look like to rise from the dead?

We’ve all seen the TV dramas in the operating room when the heart monitor suddenly goes flat with the ominous and unceasing tone. Then the shock paddles are brought in and the formerly and technically dead person is brought back to life. Maybe it’s like that – jolts running through the body.

Or maybe it’s like another scene where someone has taken in too much water and then dragged to shore. CPR and mouth to mouth are performed, and with a cough and a gurgle, breath eventually returns. Maybe it’s like that – sudden convulsions and gasping.

Or maybe it’s the way most of us feel on a particularly early morning when the alarm clock goes off. We jump out of sleep, but as we switch the light on it’s near blinding and it takes a few moments to rub the sleep out of your eyes. You have a sense of weakness in your hands and fingers as the blood starts to get going again until you can eventually stagger to the bathroom to turn on the shower. Maybe it’s like that, only greater – you need a couple of hours to regain control of your faculties and get some strength to just sit up.

But something tells me that Jesus didn’t stumble out of the tomb. Something tells me He didn’t cough and gurgle or need the blood flow to return to His extremities on Easter Sunday morning. Sure, His death was messy. Undignified. Bloody. Gruesome. Embarrassing even. But His resurrection? That was different.

I love the fact that John, right in the middle of His Easter morning account, drops a little detail into the narrative that not only describes the resurrection of Jesus, but helps us see it. Feel it. We see Mary coming to the tomb – hopeless and despondent, her faith dying with Jesus. We hear the night sounds starting to fade as the sun begins to rise. We sense the stillness – the emptiness – of the air. We see her tears and feel the crushing weight of her even greater grief, if that were possible, as she discovers in the darkness of the morning the stone rolled away. We hear her shrill cries as she sobs out her testimony to Simon Peter and John that grave robbers have come and stolen the body. Then comes the running.

We hear the panting. We feel the hot breath. We see the younger of the two outrun the older. Then, by the first rays of light, we see along with first John and then Peter, that the tomb is indeed empty. That’s when we get the detail:

“The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself” (John 20:7).

It’s a curious little detail to include, don’t you think? John was there; he saw the whole thing. It’s possible that the memory was so ingrained into him that he wanted to record every last detail. Or maybe the detail is included, as John Chrysostom thought, to give evidence that this was no grave robbery: “If anyone had removed the body, he would not have stripped it first, nor would he have taken the trouble to remove and roll up the napkin and put it in a place by itself.” No indeed.

But maybe too, buried in this little detail, is a commentary about the nature of the risen Lord. Jesus was raised to life, and when He was, He took on the dignity befitting Him. He simply got up in an unhurried manner. Like the Lord of All Creation that He is, He took a few moments to put things in order, even going so far as doing something like making His bed. Jesus didn’t stagger and stumble, bleary-eyed and numb from the coils of death; He rose as a conquering hero. And He strode out of the tomb at an unhurried pace into creation like He owned the place. Because He does.

This is not like the resurrection of Lazarus who Jesus reached into death after. Just a few chapters earlier in this gospel, he came out of the grave “bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth” (John 11:44). Jesus Himself gave the order to “loose him and let him go” because Lazarus couldn’t do it himself. He couldn’t fold his own head wrapping, but Jesus could. And He did.

He took a few moments to give us a little glimpse into the fact that centuries before the cross and the tomb, creation was broken by sin. It was set in a spiral of disorder where up was down and left was right. Everything was flipped on its head, but when He stepped out of the tomb, He announced to that broken creation that He was setting everything back the way it was always supposed to be. Out of disorder and into order. Out of death and into life. Out of brokenness and into wholeness. And maybe – just maybe – that reordering started with that simple act of taking what might have otherwise been a wrinkled, tattered mess, and folding it up neatly.

Then He walked out into the light…

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  • CarrieZ says:

    Love this point. It’s also what’s always baffled me about the “Shroud of Turin” controversy…isn’t scripture pretty clear that there were two separate cloths, so why is this even a debate?

  • kristi says:

    like He owned the place…of course!

  • grassroot says:

    Scripture says, The wrapping that was on His head was in a place by itself. And the linen cloths, ” plural” were in a separate place away from the head cloth. So there may have been many pieces of cloths besides the
    head wrapping. But the Shroud of Turin is one long piece that is folded over from the feet and over both sides of the body.

  • Barb says:

    I have read that according to Jewish tradition, if a dinner guest leaves the table, but plans to return, the napkin is folded neatly and placed beside the plate to tell the servants not to clear the place. If the guest is finished eating and will not return, the napkin is crumpled and placed on the plate, as a signal to the servants to clear the place. By folding the napkin neatly, Jesus is telling his servants, the church, he will be returning.

  • Ruysty says:

    I’ve always appreciated this little detail that says so much about Jesus. He was never in a hurry. He did everything well — never sloppy, never haphazard, never like us. I believe he woke refreshed. He wasn’t just laying there dead or asleep for two days. I believe, from the Word, that he visited all those Old Covenant saints who had accepted God’s salvation by faith, having not yet seen it. He presented Himself to them and confirmed their faith. But even after resurrection, He wasn’t ready to ascend. “And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” John 20:22. What a God we have!

  • MK says:

    Thanks for the comment Rusty. I love it too – no sloppiness in the risen Christ.

  • MK says:

    That’s fascinating, Barb – Never heard that before. Thanks for the comment.

  • Rod Larson says:

    I read a few years ago that according to Jewish custom, folding the napkin and placing it on the table meant, “don’t take my place, I’m coming back”. So not only was he not in a hurry, because he is king, he also announced through this little truance that “I’m coming back!”

  • Norm James says:

    If you do not believe ; Here are some questions to ponder.
    1- The guards were ordered to stand watch to prevent his followers from stealing the body BUT fell asleep.Why would ALL of them sleep when they knew death was a punishment for it.
    2-Why would His followers steal the body to prove something that was false knowing the rolling of that huge stone made noise and they would have been killed for attempting His removing the body if the guards woke up ?
    3- Why would any sane person continue to spread the word if they realized Jesus was a fake ; Knowing the terrible fate that awaited them if they continued to preach lies ? Hanging on the Cross must have been a horrendous death.The preservation of our lives is stronger than everything.
    They must have seen Him and talked to Him after he rose from death.
    4- The Romans and Jewish priests would have documented his death constantly to prove to all the people that Jesus was a fraud to bury the following of Him to regain their status .
    Jesus didn’t force anyone to believe him . He gave them the option ; Their free will.
    I choose to believe . I would rather believe and die and awake to His promise. If it’s all a fake and I just rot in my grave ; I won’t know anything anyway.
    We all have that choice.

  • Rod says:

    I am still ready to be called home, to be with my “God” for all eternity and as I have read the Bible, I know that everything that is said there is also either coming to fruition or will soon come to fruition!
    I LOVE my “God” and pray that every single person upon earth will get on bended knee and pray that the “Lord” our Savior will enter their an forgive them their sins and be their “Savior”. Just to what my Savior has gone through to give me the promise of eternity in Heaven with my “God”

  • J. Germany says:

    It appears that our Father sent two Angles to prepare our Lord Jesus. Can we not assume it was they that folded the napkins and garments?

    Luke 24 v3&4:

    3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

    4 And it came to pass, while they were perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel:

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