|The question often has been asked: Why do the scriptures emphasize the
fact that after our Lord had risen from the dead the napkin which was about His head was
wrapped in a place by itself and was not lying with the rest of the linen clothes?
This of course must have been done by our Lord Himself or at His command, e'er He left the tomb. Why did He so carefully wrap the napkin and put it in a place by itself aside from the rest of the grave clothes?
John and Mark both speak of the linen clothes, but we are indebted to John for the additional information that Peter was the one who first noticed, after going into the tomb, that the napkin was wrapped in a place by itself. (John 20:6,7). Then too John bore testimony to the same fact. (John 20:8).
Surely this has some spiritual meaning for every child of God, else the Spirit of God would not have caused Peter to perceive this and John to record it for us.
The Word of God makes it plain that no scripture is of private interpretation and John 20:7 is no exception. It is recorded in 2 Samuel 15:30, when David was compelled to flee for his life from Absalom, that "he had his head covered and wept as he went up and went barefoot and all the men with him covered every man his head and wept as they went". What a picture of humiliation and shame was this of the great warrior King of Israel. How unlike David is to our blessed Lord who was not compelled to leave His Throne and to cover His head, but willingly took the shame and ignominy heaped upon Him by wicked men and died the cruel death of the cross. The napkin, which symbolizes the shame, humiliation and contempt heaped upon Him and which followed Him right into the tomb was never again to be used by Him. The hymn writer has well written-
"Ne'er again shall cruel sinners, Set at naught our glorious Lord."
But look at our blessed Lord on that resurrection morning before He left the tomb, carefully wrapping the napkin and placing it in a place by itself. What joy must have been His when He folded the napkin and laid it in a place by itself, realizing the shame of the cross was past,- His heart would break no more,- "For now, once in the end of the age, He had appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself". (Heb. 9:26). The next step for Him would be "Glory". The crown of thorns symbolic of shame and humiliation was now a part of the redemption He had paid to redeem us. The writer of the book of Hebrews could say "But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." (Heb. 1:19).
But notice what John tells us. The napkin was "wrapped". When we fold things and put them away in a special place it means we are going to use them again. Was the napkin or covering to be used again? Yes indeed! The Spirit of God who inspired the apostle John to write what he did was going to use the apostle Paul to explain more fully the spiritual meaning of the napkin which Christ wrapped up for future use by His church, of which He was to be Head.
Let us now listen to Paul as he writes by the Spirit of God to the Church at Corinth and states, "A man ought not to cover his head forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God but the woman is the glory of man." (1 Cor. 11:7). Here Paul tells us the redeemed man is "God's image and glory" in the Church upon earth and for this reason is not to cover his head. But the woman being "man's glory" and man's glory is not to have the preeminence in the Church,-thus Paul says, "Let her be covered". What a beautiful picture we have here unfolded to us of the subjection of the Church to Christ, the Head! As Christ was subject to His Father and veiled His glory so the man and woman who typify Christ and His Church willingly subject themselves to Christ and gladly unfold, as it were, the napkin, placing it upon the head of the woman who is man's glory and also at the same time covering her own glory which is her hair, they both can join in saying, "But he that glorieth let him glory in the Lord." (2 Cor. 10:7). What a privilege is ours to suffer for our blessed Lord in this world that hated Him and nailed Him to the cross and what a privilege it is to stiffer for Him and "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ for His Body's sake which is the Church". (Col. 1:24).
Praise God the day cannot be far away when the Church too will need the napkin or covering no more,- nor will the Church need to wrap it and lay it in a place by itself for it will never be used again. It will take its place then with the rest of the grave clothes, for shame, sorrow and humiliation will be exchanged for eternal Glory with our Lord Himself.
Having considered the subject of the covering in the foregoing brief way, let us now consider Paul's further revelation as to the Divine reason why the Church should recognize the importance of this simple, but to many seemingly insignificant Church practice. Paul says, "For this cause ought the woman to have power (or covering) on her head because of the Angels". (1 Cor. 11:10). Much precious truth relative to the Church of God has been set aside as not being important because we fail to enter into the fact that the Church's testimony is not only in and to the world, but to the Holy Angels and to Principalities and Powers in the heavenly places. (Eph 3:10). Angels perform a very important part in the purposes of God. We see them carrying out God's will from the creation of man down through the ages until the time Christ was born. Then throughout His life the Spirit of God declares that He was seen of Angels. (1 Tim. 3:16) All through His life here on earth He was ministered to and served by the heavenly host. He could even say that if He desired to be saved from the mob who plotted His death, He could pray the Father and He would send twelve legions of Angels to deliver Him. These Holy Angels who stand before God with covered faces and covered feet and who fly to do His will and bow before Him in Holy Worship, are called to learn the things, they also desire to look into, from the Church of which we redeemed are a part. What holy reverence should fill our hearts when we think that we should be used of God to teach this vast host of Heavenly Angels of whom David spoke in Psalm 103:20,21 saying, "They excel in strength that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His Word." What holy reverence and joy should fill our hearts when we think of the napkin which our Lord folded and which the Angels no doubt saw Him fold, now being willingly worn on the head of the woman thus covering her own Glory, "her hair" and also the Glory of the man,- that Christ might have all the Glory in the midst of His people.
Surely this is far from what the Angels beheld in the garden of Eden when Eve usurped Adam's authority seeking to become gods who would know good and evil by partaking of the forbidden fruit at the suggestion of Satan. How the Angels must rejoice when they witness such subjection to our blessed Lord in the Church knowing that Satan would never be able to get into the Church as He got into the garden, so long as the man and woman were jointly willing to cover their glory so that Christ may be "all in all".
What joy must fill the hearts of the Angelic host who continuously do the commandments of the Lord and hearken unto the voice of His Word as they witness the heirs of Salvation whom they serve day and night bowing in contrite subjection to God's Holy inspired Word and are not ashamed to wear the napkin and be counted worthy to suffer shame for His name's sake.
Then what about the Principalities and Powers, Spiritual wickedness in the Heavenly places? These too witness and know the meaning of the covered head of the woman in the Church. It is a constant reminder of their ultimate judgment and eternal doom.
These "Powers of darkness", as they witness the napkin or the covered head of the woman, know well that the man who reflects the Glory of God in the Church will never again be tempted to turn his back upon his Lord to cleave unto his wife so long as the covering denoting subjection is worn by the woman. Blessed thought! What a place of divine responsibility and what a testimony in the Church is the place given the woman to be a real spiritual help-meet to the man who is still the chief target of Satan and evil spirits in Heavenly places.
Some years ago I was ministering on this truth to a group of colored believers in Chicago's South Side and after the service a little old colored lady said to me, "From now on I am going to be proud of my old hat." She had entered into this truth and was going to have much joy in not only being a testimony in the world, but also to be a testimony to both the Holy Angels and to the Principalities and Powers against whom our spiritual warfare is at present being waged.
May we all seek grace from God so that in the Church of which Christ is the Head, He may see manifested that for which He taught His disciples to pray, namely; "that the will of God may be done on earth as it is in Heaven." (Luke 11:2).
There is only one place on earth in which God can expect to see His will done and that is in the Church, but this can only be if every member of His Body be wholly abandoned to Him to do His will and be led and taught of the Holy Spirit of God.
William G. McCartney