Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

I’ll Be Back March 5, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:14 pm

We all know, or should know, proper etiquette regarding napkins at a table. In brief, they are either folder under the knife and spoon to the left of a plate or creatively folded on top of the plate. Once seated, you are to immediately take the napkin and place it on your lap and it should stay on your lap for the entire meal. When done eating or if you need to get up during the meal, you’re to neatly fold it and place it either on the empty plate or next to it. So that’s etiquette, but have you heard the biblical folded napkin story?



According to Hebrew tradition during the time of Christ’s life and death, a folded napkin had everything to do with a master and a servant. Every Jewish servant boy knew that when he set a table for the master, he made sure it was exactly the way the master wanted it. Nothing new here, right? Yes, the table was properly set and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, for the master to finish the meal. The servant would not dare touch the table until the master was done. Here’s where the napkin comes into play.


If the master was done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers and mouth, and then wad up the napkin and throw it on the table. This was the servant’s sign to clear the table as a wadded up napkin signified “I’m done.” If, however, the master got up from the table and laid a folded up napkin beside his plate, it mean “I’m coming back” and the servant was not to touch the setting.


I’m coming back.


Hmmmm…any guess how this is biblically related now?



Think about it. The Gospel tells us that the clothes Jesus was wearing at death were thrown aside but a cloth was neatly placed over His head. When Simon Peter entered the tomb, he noticed the wrapping lying about but that the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and laying neatly on the side.


I’m coming back.


Powerful, right? The power and meaning of a meal in Jesus’ life is equally significant.




Okay, so it probably wasn’t a meal that included a yummy cinnamon roll, but it did entail feeding a hungry soul. All along.



What immediately comes to mind is likely the Last Supper, but it started way prior. The Passover meal was historically important as Israelites shared a meal to remember both the bitterness of their slavery and the sweetness of their liberation. From the very beginning, it could be said that Jesus’ own life and ministry was food and/or meal-centered. At birth He proved food for a hungry world and is the Bread of Life. His ministry often involved meals or food, including His first miracle in which He turned water in wine at Cana and many of His preaching and teaching involved bread and fish. In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaims as part of the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who hunger for justice for they will be filled.” What’s glorious about Jesus’ meals is that everyone was invited.



Perhaps it should come as no surprise that traits that enable us to live a moral life are listed as “Fruits of the Holy Spirit” (Gal 5:19-22). I’m not talking apples and oranges, I’m talking Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.  These seeds are planted in us to help us maintain good habits and virtues and are the opposite of what are called the “Bitter Fruits.” Yeah, they make us bitter and even worse, as they consist of traits such as immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, and carousing.


As we sit down for meals this Lent and as we anticipate Easter, let’s imagine for a minute a table full of those we’ve wronged, not forgiven, judged, or even deceived. Not very appetizing, is it? Yet, that’s the type of table Jesus, the Master of all masters set so even if we don’t actually do it, set that table in your mind and envision it. Then, let’s all be grateful for the food on our plates and for even the napkins on our lap. No masters or servants needed to know and believe “I’m coming back.”




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