May 8, 2022

Audio Sermon Easter Four — Sunday May 8, 2022 (Video Failure)

Passage: John 20:6-7
Service Type:

Sermon for Easter Four – Sunday May 8, 2022
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has given us new birth into a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you. Amen.

John 20:6-7 (ESV)
6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.**

In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who was died on the tree for our sins,
Who was raised again for our justification,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –

It’s not something that anyone wants to see, but if you’ve ever been present when someone departs this life you know what I mean. There is a physical change in the body when death comes. People may say of the body at a funeral: “Oh, they look so good.” But those are empty words to me. They just aren’t true. The dead may resemble the living, but they don’t look the same, they don’t look good.... how could they?

When someone passes from this life it can almost be witnessed in the eyes. Suddenly, something is missing. Which is why we are so quick to shutter the eyelids of the departed. No one wants to look into the open eyes of the dead. Which may be one of the reasons why the Jews wrapped the head of the dead with a face cloth.

This morning we collect yet another thing left behind in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. It is the face cloth once wrapped about the head and face of Jesus, left behind sitting beside the linen cloths. The face cloth confirms that Jesus’ body was not taken away by grave robbers. He arose from death and neatly folded or rolled up the face cloth because there was no longer need of it.

May God the Holy Spirit bless our meditation upon what the Word of God says about these things left behind. It is always our earnest prayer that the Spirit of God sanctify us by the truth, His Word is Truth. Amen.


When we bury our dead today – if they aren’t cremated – they are dressed in clothing and laid in a casket that resembles a comfortable bed. The faces and hair of the dead are made up and neatly groomed so as to resemble the living and we pay our respects and we say goodbye.

We learned last Sunday that the Jews bound their dead in strips of linen with spices to cover up the odor of decomposition. While we don’t usually cover the faces of the dead, the Jews did, in fact they wrapped the entire head in a face cloth.

In the Greek that face cloth is called a ‘soudarion’ which simply means ‘sweat-cloth.’ It was a piece of cloth sometimes used like we might a towel or a napkin today, to wipe perspiration from the face. Since the cloth used to wipe away sweat today is sometimes called a ‘handkerchief’ many translations use that word to describe this face cloth.

But a ‘soudarion’ wasn’t the size of a hand towel or the shape of a handkerchief. It was a fairly lengthy piece of cloth wound round and round the head. In fact, the same word is used (Luke 19:20) of a sort of headdress or turban wound about the head that might even be used to conceal money.

When Lazarus shuffled out of his tomb still wound up in the Linen Cloths, the ‘soudarion’ was still wrapped around his face (John 11:44) likely concealing it. When Jesus was laid to rest by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, they also carefully wrapped the head of Jesus in one of these covering his face and perhaps keeping his mouth closed.

When Joseph and Nicodemus sealed the tomb just before 6pm Good Friday evening, the corpse of Jesus was wrapped neatly in layers of linen strips with spices in between...and his head was wrapped and covered.


It was still dark (John 20:1) when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early on Sunday, the first day after the Sabbath. She was likely traveling with the other women who were coming in the cool morning to anoint the body of Jesus with spices (Mark 16:1, Luke 23:56, 24:1).

The Gospel of John tells us that when she saw that the Large Stone had been taken away from the tomb, she ran to tell Simon Peter and John what she and the other women first believed had happened (20:2b):
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,
and we do not know where they have laid him.”

When Mary Magdalene saw the large stone had been taken away from the tomb...she assumed the worst. We aren’t told whether she looked into the tomb or not...but her words reveal that she believed that unknown persons had come and taken away the body of Jesus out of the tomb (cf. also John 20:13, 15).

When Peter and John heard the news, they went out and ran to the tomb. What was the rush? Why the first annual easter morning track meet? Well, they went to see if what Mary said was true. They went to see if Jesus’ corpse had been taken from the tomb, carried away by someone else.

The Apostle John won first place and arrived at the tomb first. He didn’t go into the tomb, but bent over and looked into the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying where they had been but without a body to support them. He stopped to consider what it meant.

The Apostle Peter came in second but He crossed the finish and went right into the empty tomb. The Gospel of John reports what he saw.

6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.**

This was no crime scene. The evidence was all there and nothing was disturbed. We might ask, first of all, what was there of value to be stolen in the tomb? Well, there was a corpse in linen cloths with spices. The things that had value (the linen cloths and spices) were still there. If the tomb had been broken into and this was a robbery...what was taken and how was it taken?

Peter and John didn’t find a tomb in disorder.

The Linen Cloths were exactly where they had been. They lay in their layers with myrrh and aloes but there was no body. The linen cocoon had not been unwound or cut; and who leaves behind the suit neatly pressed and carries away a naked corpse? Wouldn’t they just carry away the mummified corpse?

How would they do that...when the tomb was being guarded by a detachment of Roman Soldiers? If the body was removed from the linen could they do it without cutting or unwinding the linen cloths? The answer is obvious...the body of Jesus simply passed through the linen cocoon.

There was one more thing left behind.

The face cloth was NOT where it had been. When the tomb was sealed it was wound round and round about the head of Jesus. There was no head to support it, but it was NOT lying where it had been around His head. It had been neatly rolled up by itself.

If Mary was right and this was a grave robbery...why was it all so orderly? What grave robber takes the time to carefully unwind the face cloth and then carefully roll it back up and set it aside? The careful investigator might conclude that the impossible had taken place, that Jesus had taken off the face cloth, and having no more need of it, rolled it up and set it aside as evidence of His rising.


Did the face cloth serve its purpose? I suppose it did for a time. It covered the unseeing eyes of the corpse of Jesus of Nazareth. It hid those empty eyes. It allowed Joseph and Nicodemus to do their work. Then when the eyes of Jesus came to see once more, it became an unnecessary hindrance...and the living Lord Jesus removed it.

Why was it left behind? It was left behind because it was no longer needed. But the manner and way in which it was left behind served another show that Christ had arisen from death.

We don’t like to look upon the dead. If we are honest, most of us are ‘creeped out’ by looking into the unseeing eyes of the dead. We don’t like it because it starkly reminds us of the unalterable fact that death awaits us. One day our eyes will be sightless and unseeing...but we don’t want to think about that.

We don’t want to be reminded of that. We want to put our fingers in our ears and hum to ourselves. We would rather cover our eyes and run away from death.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble or make you uncomfortable...but we can’t escape temporal death. We all have to face it whether we like it or not.

Honestly, our greatest concern shouldn’t be the unseeing eyes of the dead...but the all-seeing eyes of our God. Our God sees everything that happens on the face of the earth. He sees inside our minds and knows what we are going to say before we say it.

What the Psalmist David said in the 139th Psalm is still true today (Psalm 139:2-4):

“You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.”

We know it’s true...but it doesn’t seem to concern us. We speak hurtful words of loved ones, friends and foes alike in their absence and sometimes to their faces. This all takes place before the face of our God. There is no way to hide it from Him, no face cloth will conceal it.

It isn’t just that God sees our changes the way He looks at us. It ought to terrify us to read (Psalm 34:16):

“ The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.”

The terror that the rulers of the earth and those who have rejected Christ will feel is palpable when the last day is described in the Revelation (6:15-17):

15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

This is what it will mean to come through death to the last day without forgiveness and at enmity with God.

Which is why the Savior Jesus bore our sins and guilt upon himself. He was forsaken by God on the Cross (Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34) because of your corrupt nature and mine, because you and I have lived and dabbled in sin. Sin is so serious that only the life blood of the sinless son of God made human could make atonement. He died to separate us from sin and then He rose again to defeat sin’s partner death.
Jesus said He would lay down his life and take it up again (John 10:18). He did both things and after He arose the third day, He took off the face cloth and neatly rolled it up and set it aside. Death’s power is shattered.

He was delivered up for our sins; He was raised again that we might be declared not guilty before the face and judgment seat of God. In mercy He has enlightened us so that we see in Jesus our savior from sin and death (cf. Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 4:6):

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Moses once wore a face cloth to cover his shining face because the glory was going away. They once put a face cloth on Lazarus’ face but had to remove it at Jesus’ command. They once wrapped Jesus face with a cloth, but He took it off so that His face might never be hidden from his people ever again.

King of Glory, reign forever; Thine an everlasting crown.
Nothing from Thy love shall sever
those whom Thou hast made thine own,
Happy objects of Thy grace, destined to behold Thy face (TLH 221:5).


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