Removing the Shroud of Unbelief

by Reverend Anthony R. Locke Matthew 27:57-60 English Standard Version 

57   When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.

58   He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

59   And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud

60   and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.

Romans 10:9 If we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved.

John 20:1-8 English Standard Version

1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.

4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.

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.

8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.[1]

History affirms the resurrection. There are proofs. There are evidences which beg a response. Yet, regardless how convincing these proofs are, God expects a response of faith, not sight.

God calls us to believe. The Holy Spirit works faith in our heart and soul that Jesus was crucified, dead, buried; He descended into Hell, and on the third day He rose again from the grave.

By Spirit baptism we are united with Jesus in His life, we are united with Jesus in His death, and we are united with Jesus in His resurrection and ascension.

Easter celebrates the new creation which has begun in the resurrection. Old things are passing away, behold, all things are becoming new.

But the passage in Matthew and John both speak about things which were seen. Specifically, cloth textiles.

There was a large cloth napkin around His head and a clean linen sheet that was used to wrap His body.

Curators of antiquity surmise that the Shroud of Turin is the body wrap mentioned in our passages. Some people think that Joseph of Arimathaea saved it and that the sheet has survived to this day.

Now, these kinds of things are very skeptical.

For many years the world assumed it was a fake. In 2005 some scientists were able to prove, to their satisfaction, that the Shroud of Turin is in fact not a fake but a genuine first century burial cloth used to wrap a dead body which was crucified.

Was the body of our Lord buried in that shroud? I don’t know. It could be.

In 2010 news stations were abuzz when a face was constructed using 3D computer imaging of the blood stains and sweat patterns. The extracted image, his face only, was shown to the world. For me, the face looked a lot like my imagination of the face of my Lord. It made me uneasy.

And that gets me wondering even further. Why would I care if it was the real burial cloth that was used to bury Jesus? Would my faith be richer? Would my Christian commitments and resolve be stronger? Would I feel vindicated if scientists could somehow affirm my faith?

I don’t think so. Consider that we think we know the place in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Does that make a difference?

We know the hill on which Jesus was crucified. We can walk the streets, cross the brooks and swim in the lakes around which Jesus lived.

Yet, none of these things bring the Christian faith into the good graces of the secular mind. So if the things which can be seen with our eyes do not increase faith, then how is our faith increased?

Faith is a byproduct of God’s sovereign work of grace using the Word of God. The testimony of the Apostles are much more convincing than any stained cloth from a few thousand years back.

We are not dependent on the world growing our faith through archaeology or science. Jesus and the Father are co-conspirators.

They send the Holy Spirit to invite and draw us to the Gospel. God enlightens our minds and regenerates our spiritually dead will so that we can answer the call of grace and be saved.

The Gospel then becomes a life long profession of faith. God enables us to persevere in that faith without worldly proofs. We look to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith.

When we hear the acclamation “Jesus Christ is risen!”, our souls should cry out intuitively, “He is risen indeed!”

If we hope for our faith to be increased by worldly proofs, then I would fully expect for Jesus to respond as He did in Mark 16:14. The scriptures say that “He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

Our faith is not built upon the shifting sands of religious legends or by archeological proof dug up from the sands of Palestine. Our faith is not anchored in such fickleness.

Our faith is anchored in the risen Christ! Say it with me, “I believe.”

Don’t say it because someone unfolded before your eyes some proof or evidence.

Shed the Shroud. You don’t need it. With empty hands, and with eyes that have not seen, cry out “I believe for I have seen the glory of the risen Christ!” 

Make this your lifelong profession. Join hands with countless others who say, “I have seen Jesus and He is alive!”

The Shroud of Turin will not grow your faith. Rather, look to Jesus.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Click to read another great article about the Shroud of Turin

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