Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Folded Cloth

Culture influences everything we say, everything we think, and everything we read. We often make the mistake of equating something that is cultural as part of Christianity. We read Scripture with our Western eyes and autonomous mindset and think we understand what the writer was trying to say. However, the writer, although divinely inspired, was also crafting his words through the lens of Hebrew or Greek culture.

Simon Peter, Jesus' disciple, saw the strips of linen lying in an empty tomb and the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen (John 20:6,7). One of the lies about Jesus is that he never really rose but that his body was stolen in the night. It was a fabrication created then that continues today (Matthew 27:64, 28:13). I have always understood the piece about the folded cloth as proof and evidence that thieves did not take Jesus' body. Why would thieves take the time to fold the cloth that was wrapped around Jesus? After all, they would be in a hurry to do the deed and leave the scene quickly. The need for proof and evidence is a part of our culture. We are always trying to make a case for Christ; always trying to defend the fantastic, supernatural essence of Christianity.

My refugee friend from a Middle Eastern country spoke about the folded cloth from a different perspective. As part of Middle Eastern hospitality, guests would be given a cloth and water in order to clean themselves. If guests felt like they were treated poorly, they would toss the towel as a sign that they were never coming back again. However, if they neatly folded the cloth, the message was, "I will come back again."

For my friend, the folded cloth was not proof but rather a promise that Jesus is coming back. He was pierced, crushed, and assigned a grave with the wicked and rich even though he had done nothing wrong (Isaiah 53), but still he is coming back. Sometimes we need someone from a different culture to point out our blind spots or to show us a new, beautiful way of understanding things.

As a Canadian, I listen and read about the Connecticut massacre of children and adults with absolute horror. My dear friends in the USA, as someone on the "outside", I plead with you to beat your guns into plowshares and crucify your "right" to bear arms. This tragedy is not your new tactic to tear down your President's views on abortion nor is it a time for mean-spirited talk about gun control. Rather, it is a time to turn to Jesus, a king who ruled with a towel not an automatic, rode a donkey not a tank, and chose the cross instead of self-defense.

This season of comfort and joy has been twisted into a season of horror and sadness for masses of families. We weep and mourn with them. I barely know how to write this note for fear that my expression sounds trite. Still, this Christmas, I will remember that Jesus came. He came and he will come back again. The folded cloth tells me so.

(Thanks to my refugee friend, Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo, and Chris Haw for their insight and inspiration)


At 4:56 PM, Blogger Rhoda said...

Thanks Marcee! I love that there is no end to what we can learn from each other around the globe :)

At 4:31 PM, Blogger FFG said...

New perspectives are so refreshing...sometimes disturbing. =)

At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Danny Boy said...

I might be bias as a brother, but I love the way you write...keep up the good words sis! thank your friend for the interesting incite for me as I love that verse as well!

At 12:33 PM, Blogger FFG said...

Thanks, "Danny Boy"!

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