The Shroud of Turin?
Here at Easter time we usually see movies about the “Shroud of Turin,” and also hear sermons about Christ’s “grave clothes” and what they were and what they meant. However, according to the Biblical record, Christ was not buried in a shroud. After His crucifixion Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took the body and prepared it for burial:
John 19:38: “And after this Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore and took the body of Jesus.
19:39: “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.”
19:40: “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.”
Note that the mixture of aloes and spices were “about an hundred pound weight.” The Greek word for ‘weight’ here is litra, which was equal to our modern weight of about 12 ounces, or roughly ¾ of a pound. Therefore, the hundred litra weight would equal about 75 pounds in modern English terms.
The Body Was “Wound” With the Spices
Note that they “took the body of Jesus and wound it in linen clothes with the spices.” This would mean that they cut or tore strips of the linen and soaked it in the spice mixture and wound the strips around the body as we have seen pictures of mummified bodies, embalmed for burial. After drying, this would have formed a hard, cast-like cocoon for the body. It was not wrapped loosely in a shroud, contrary to the popular story of the Shroud of Turin.
What Was “The Manner Of The Jews”?
The text says: “… as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” The “manner of the Jews to bury” is further indicated in John 11:44 where we see that Lazarus, being raised from the dead, his “grave clothes” had him bound hand and foot, and there was a “napkin” binding his face. That napkin binding his face was not attached to the other “grave clothes.” Jesus commanded him to be loosed. These two incidents, Jesus and Lazarus, indicate that the bodies were not merely loosely wrapped in a shroud, but rather were tightly bound.
We also have the much earlier story of Joseph’s “grave clothes” in Genesis 50:25-26 which may give us a precedent for the “grave clothes” of Jesus and Lazarus. “And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”
The rest of the story is in Exodus 13:19: “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away from hence with you.” So the embalming of Joseph was a part of the traditions of the Jews.
What Did They See In The Empty Tomb?
On resurrection morning, Mary Magdalene had visited the tomb and saw that Jesus’ body was not there. She hurried to tell the disciples. John 20:3-8:
“Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulcher. So they ran both together and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying, yet went not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and 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 together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed.”
What was it that they saw in the “grave clothes” that made them believe? It was the fact that that hard shell of the cast-like cocoon was not broken nor disturbed but the body was gone from it. Jesus came out of the “grave clothes” without disturbing them. The body wrap was separate from the head wrap but both were totally intact. That glorified Body of Jesus went through the cocoon just as it went through the walls where the disciples had met: “the doors were shut,” but Jesus stood in their midst.
No human power could have removed the body of Jesus from those “grave clothes” without tearing or breaking the cocoon cast. Seeing was believing.
He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!