Musings on scripture from Sunday...the odd bits
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. (NRSV)
Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. (The Message)
When Simon Peter got there, he went into the tomb and saw the strips of cloth. He also saw the piece of cloth that had been used to cover Jesus' face. It was rolled up and in a place by itself. (CEV)
What is up with the neatness of this piece of cloth?
Some research notes-
Shrouds are white and entirely hand-stitched. They are made without buttons, zippers, or fasteners. Tahrihim come in muslin or linen, fabrics that recall the garments of the ancient Hebrew priesthood. If the body has been prepared for burial with ritual cleansing (taharah), the body will automatically be dressed in tahrihim. Tahrihim swaddle the entire body, including the face, so that the deceased is both clothed and protected against the gaze of other people. (here - emphasis mine)
Soon after death, family members of the deceased would mourn and prepare the body for burial. The deceased's body was washed and anointed with various oils and spices. The body was then wrapped in unique linen clothing that contained spices and placed on a stone shelf that was carved into the bedrock wall of a the tomb. (here)
Why was Jesus' body wrapped before being properly prepared for burial?
This one is easier. Earlier in the Gospel, Mary anoints Jesus with nard and so Jesus is pre-prepared (John 12:3). Although in the other Gospels, this story doesn't happen. So the question does stand. So the question is, why is it important to the Gospel of John that Jewish funeral custom of anointing and preparing the body with oil is followed? I would say that the community of the Johannine Gospel was very Jewish in addition to following Jesus. It would be important for them to follow Jewish customs, especially around death.
But still, what is up with the very specific rolling up of the head cloth and setting it aside?
Plus, in all the reading (30 minutes on the internet - ha!) I've accomplished, there is no specific head piece to shrouding the body. The one piece of fabric shrouds the entire body. That leaves one thing left - priestly clothing.
The hat was not of the kind that we are used to, but rather a long strip of fabric that was wound around the head. (from JewishMag.com). Now that sounds like something that could be rolled up or folded neatly.
Why would it be important for Jesus to be in priestly garb?
Again, on the issue of priestly garb, I will borrow from JewishMag.com:
On this our great rabbis spoke. The Torah in the beginning of Exodus 28 states that we are to make Aaron and his sons (who were the first priests) holy garments "for honor and beauty." The Ramban and others say that the purpose of the clothing was to give the priests honor and dignity. The clothing does not come to permit the priest to do the sacrifices, but rather that it imparts to them the splendor of being selected to perform the ceremonies.
By including the head piece, it is another subtle way that the author of John imparts priestly and ultimately divine authority to Jesus. John is full of these threads of connection if we pay attention! By pointing out the head covering specifically, the early gospel readers (and hearers) would have known the ancient Jewish customs of burial and the ancient customs of priestly garb. They would have gotten it! Unfortunately, we have to work hard to "get it" today.