The Folded Napkin


Why did Jesus fold the napkin?

This is one I can honestly say I have never seen circulating in the e-mails.

Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection? I never noticed this…….

John 20:7 tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded and was placed at the head of that stony coffin.

Early that Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body and I don’t know where they have taken Him!”

Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the napkin that had covered Jesus face was folded up and lying to one side.

Is that important? Absolutely!

Is that really significant? Yes!

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about the 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 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 that table until the Master was finished.

If the Master was done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard and would wad up that 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”.

I did not know this….

If the Master got up from the table, and folded his napkin beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because….the folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back!”

He is coming back!

During this Holy season, I pray that you are blessed with peace and joy in the knowledge that He IS coming back.

Thank you to Laura Grace for sharing this submission!


About Author

Laura Grace writes our lesson plans from St. Nicholas Chapel at the Pax River Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Maryland. Visit Laura at her blog at The Catholic Toolbox. Elyse A. is a student who enjoys her faith and writing. Margaret Dwyer, a wife and mother of 4 children, lives in Easton, MA and runs Vacation Bible School at her parish in addition to teaching CCD and serving on the Pastoral Council. Margaret credits a friend's persistent urging to pray the Rosary and attend Mass during the week during a difficult time as a pivotal moment in her life, and feels called to bring Catholics to a deeper faith life by promoting the sacraments and the Rosary!


  1. I am sorry, I feel this is very poor theology for the following reasons:

    1. Jesus was surely not buried with his dinner “napkin” on. Agreed, the Last Supper was very close to the arrest, but, come on, … he had time to let go of his dinner napkin….assuming that Jewish people used such napkins. (Seems like a Western custom to me… don’t know)

    2. Scripture does not say Jesus rose from the dead and folded his head cloth (“napkin”). An angel could have done it. Which means what? The angel is coming back? Huh?

    3. Jesus was not having supper in his tomb. If he had folded the napkin at the Last Supper, this wonderful theology would probably make some sense (assuming there was a Jewish custom like that). Instead, at the Last Supper, Jesus takes off his outer garment and gives an example of discipleship thru washing of the feet. Why don’t we talk about that?

    • The “napkin” was covering his head as part of the burial ritual. And, they probably didn’t call it a napkin…but it would have been similar for certain. Here is the scripture…

      Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

      Of course, there is mystery in the Bible… but I don’t believe that this detail, which every Jewish boy of the time would have most likely understood…to be insignificant. Whether Jesus folded it or an angel did it for him… What a beautiful message God sent us with the folding of his face covering upon His resurrection! Come Lord Jesus!

  2. The death, resurrection, and return of Jesus is a mystery that can only be grasped in faith. His spoken word is enough for us to believe. Let’s not get carried away by such sensational stuff.

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