I know that there are many of you who are going through some difficult times. So many changes have taken place in the last few weeks that it is almost difficult to remember what we used to call normal. College students are having to complete their classes online, seniors, both high school and college, are more than likely not going to celebrate their achievement in the way that they hoped, brides are having to adjust their special day and have only close family attend.
The workforce has also been hit as many are having hours reduced and others have been temporarily laid off which is causing financial difficulty for families. It is an easy time to be discouraged and with Easter just around the corner, we have been informed that we will not be able to gather together and celebrate the resurrection of our Savior as a church. I believe, however, that this holiday could not have come at a more perfect time. Why? Because it is a holiday of hope and I want to share three aspects of this holiday that give us hope and encouragement during this time.
The Folded Napkin
First, let’s discuss the folded napkin found inside the empty tomb. In John chapter 20 verses 3 through 7 it says, Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
Did you catch that? Verse 7 goes to great length to tell us about how the napkin, used to cover the face, was not with the rest of the linen clothes but set apart, neatly. I discovered this simple explanation about why this little detail is important.
In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, we need to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the master and servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating.
The servant would not dare touch the table until the master was finished. Now if the master was finished eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers and mouth, clean his beard, and wad up the napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, “I’m finished.”
But if the master got up from the table, folded his napkin and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because the folded napkin meant, “I'm coming back!”
Is that not some of the best news you have heard! And that is our first hope, Easter signifies that our Lord is returning for us. His work on the cross is finished, our sin debt has been paid, but that is not the end. He is coming back one day and He left us a little something to remind us.
Next, I want to talk about one of my favorite characters in the Easter story, Mary Magdelene. She is such an amazing and interesting character to say the least and one, with the most memorable moments. Her love for Christ was great, she only desired to be with Him, to soak up every word He spoke and learn of Him. She was among the last to leave His side at the cross, and the first to arrive at the tomb. I believe she counted the hours until she could be at His side to complete the burial tasks, to have one last chance to show her love. He who had given sight to the blind, life to the dead and healing to the sick, now sat in a cold, empty tomb.
Mary was the first to discover that the body was gone and she with the other women quickly told the men. But unlike the other women who stayed behind, she returned to the garden with the two disciples. After Peter and John left, with only questions in their mind, she remained in the garden still desperately searching for the body of her Lord, her heart broken by the thought that she didn’t know where the body had been taken. She couldn’t bear the fact that she was denied this final opportunity.
It seems that she took one more look inside the empty tomb just to see if maybe the body had returned and it was there that she witnessed something amazing, two heavenly beings sitting inside the tomb who asked her what the problem was. What’s interesting is that it did not startle her at all. She seemed unaffected by their presence and merely answered their question. She then just turns away without a second thought to who she had just spoke to. This is a testament to the power of grief, it can make us miss out on the extraordinary.
He took the time
Especially in times like this it is easy for us to get caught up in the news and uneasy events that are being reported each day but sometimes this can make us blind to what God is doing today for us. Mary was so wrapped up in her grief that she walked away from angels. But something else was getting ready to happen and there was no way she would miss it. As she turns away from the empty tomb she comes face to face with the one person she has been so desperately looking for. This is where the story gets interesting for me and here’s why, there is great significance at what happens next.
Jesus speaks to Mary, "Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?" And Mary, thinking He was the gardner asks him if he knows where the body of her Lord was located. Even though she was face to face with the Master, she still couldn’t see it was Him. But then He says her name and everything changes. There was no one who spoke her name like He did and she immediately knew it was the one she adored. Now here is what I want to point out, something that touched my heart when I realized it for the first time.
Mary was so excited to see Jesus that it seems she wanted to reach out and touch Him but He quickly tells her, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God and your God.” Jesus’ words reveal something special. He had paused His mission. Think about that, He has not ascended to His Father yet, why? Because there was someone who needed Him. It was as if He said “I will be right there Father, I just need to talk to Mary for a moment and let her know that I am no longer dead but risen.” When I first had this thought I was blown away, Jesus took the time to see Mary, to allow her to be the first person who saw Him.
This should be an encouragement to you and me, we are loved and our God cares about us, He always has time for us, and will never be too busy to hear our cries. So when the news weighs you down and the cares of life overwhelm you don’t forget that you have the privilege to lay it all at the Master’s feet. We were never intended to hold onto these cares, but are told to cast it all on the One who cares for you.
A Holiday of Completion
Lastly, I want to talk about the holiday itself. Christmas is a celebration of beginnings, it is when Jesus came to the earth, the start of His journey as man but Easter signified the end. The work of Jesus was done, it was complete, there was nothing left but to ascend to the right hand of the Father and prepare a place for those that love Him. A plan that was born almost from the beginning of time was now finished.
Because of Easter we have hope beyond the grave, that when we die our life is only just beginning. I have to say that this thought filled me with such joy and excitement. We are in the middle of very trying and difficult times. The news is filled with discouraging reports and is only heightened by the fact that we are unable to gather together in worship and fellowship. But Easter is the perfect time to remember all that is to come, God’s work is complete, our sin debt is paid in full and we can look forward to the day when we will be with Him never to face sickness or sorrow again. Because of Easter we have the hope of a bright future.
I hope you have a great day and a very Happy, hope filled Easter!
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I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.