The Linen Clothes
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
“Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” (John 19:40)
The Jews of Jesus’ day prepared bodies for burial in a much different fashion than we do today. In our text the word “wound” actually means “to bind, tie, or wind,” and bodies were tightly rolled up in long strips of linen cloth. Parallel passages in Matthew 27:59, Mark 15:46, and Luke 23:53 employ words derived from the Greek hellisso, meaning “to coil,” from which we get our word “helix.”
The tightness of the winding can be inferred from the raising of Lazarus from the dead. After Christ had called him back to life, “he that was dead came forth, bound [same word as ‘wound’] hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44).
On resurrection morning, after hearing the news of the missing body of Christ, Peter and John ran to the sepulcher. “Peter . . . went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped [same word as ‘wound’] together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple . . . and he saw, and believed” (John 20:6-8).
John recognized, as we should, that only a miracle could account for the state of these linen clothes. If thieves had stolen the body, they would either have taken the clothes, or the clothes would have been strewn around, not lying in the same location and shape as they had been when the body was present. Previously, John “knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead” (v. 9), but when he saw the linen clothes, he “believed.”
Christ miraculously rose from the dead. John believed; we have his eyewitness testimony. Can we do less? JDM