The Second Coming

The Second Coming

Andrew Sholl

Whenever I read in the Scriptures that God said or did something of great significance, I inevitably exclaim "How great You are!", or "Halleluia!", Hebrew for "Praise ye the Lord!"

So it is with the narrative of the Resurrection in St John's Gospel. However, regarding chapter 20, verse 7 of this Gospel, as a Hebrew-Catholic it astounds me that in my 73 years I have yet to hear a bishop or priest preach on the significance of this, to me, a most significant verse.

It is rightly said that anything that Jesus says or does is of significance. Thus, when just after the Resurrection, Mary of Magdala rushes into the tomb of Jesus, she not only finds it empty, but finds the grave "clothes" scattered on the ground, and the cloth that covered Jesus' face, folded or rolled up in a separate place.

What is the significance of the latter? Let me elaborate: it has everything to do with Jewish table manners at the time. Whereas we in our Western culture in Australia follow the table setting and manners of Louis XIV, the 17th century "Sun-King" of France, whose setting and use of knife, fork and spoon, together with serviette, were slavishly copied by European society, at the time of Jesus, Jewish table manners required eating with the right hand, as is still the case in most of the Arab World, the Indian sub-continent, and parts of south-east Asia where no chopsticks are used.

In our Western culture, to show that we have finished our meal, it is customary, especially in a restaurant, to put knife and fork together on the plate. In ancient Jewish custom, however, to show that one is finished, one would scrunch up the serviette and casually throw it on the table: this would then be a sign to the servant that the master had finished, and the table could be cleared.

However, should the master fold or roll up the serviette, this would be a sign to the servant not to clear the table as yet, because the master has, e.g., taken a phone call, with the unspoken message, "I shall return!"

That is precisely the vital message that Jesus wants to convey to us by means of verse 7: "I shall return!" Namely, his Second Coming.

Townsville, Queensland

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