Unleavened Brett

Brett’s Friday Blog Post

UB 99

Is it really the burial cloth of Christ?

Guess where I learned to drive a car? A place where it was unlikely that I could kill anyone. Yup, my grandmother let me drive around the grounds of a graveyard. Since then, I’ve been to plenty of graveyards for more serious purposes. As a minister, I’ve stood beside a fair number of freshly dug graves to perform committals. These days, more people are opting for cremation, so I don’t go to as many tombs as I used to. Other than funerals, I personally never go to cemeteries. After the funerals, I’ve never once visited any of my family’s gravesites. It’s not due to lack of caring, but because I know my loved ones aren’t there. My Christian grandmother, father, & others like them have gone to be with the Lord.

Have you heard of the Shroud of Turin? It’s a very old piece of linen that’s purported to be the burial cloth that wrapped the corpse of Christ. It’s been debated for centuries whether it could be the real deal or if it’s some kind of forgery. I jumped into the debate over 40 years ago when I wrote my biggest high school term paper on it. I read a book about it, did some other research, then sat down at my green manual typewriter to conclude that I believed it was genuine (I got an “A”). But I also concluded it didn’t matter because our faith doesn’t rest on relics. If it’s not the true shroud, it doesn’t affect my confidence in the resurrection of Christ.

It’s still a mysterious & fascinating story of how it survived fires & other dangers over hundreds of years. First documented in the 14th century, the artifact features an incredible 3D image of a violently beaten & crucified man with actual blood stains. It’s not a painting with brush strokes, but more like a burnt “photograph” bearing the marks of a body having “radiated” (or “vibed” or whatever) right through it with a great deal of energy, which would be consistent with the Resurrection. Jesus’ body passed right through the wrappings, leaving them undisturbed. If it is a forgery, it is the most amazing forgery of all time. I watched a documentary a little while back that suggested Leonard da Vinci was the brilliant man who forged it. It was plausible but disputable. And why would he do it? That theory requires just as much, if not more, faith.

Various dating methods have been run to determine its date of origin, but mixed signals have been sent with debatable results. More recently a new scientific procedure dated the fabric to about 2,000 years ago. Pollen samples from the shroud come from plants native to that specific area around Judea, as well as plants that suggest a journey from Jerusalem through Turkey to France, and now to Italy where it’s been housed in the Turin Cathedral.

My view hasn’t changed since high school. I think it’s probably authentic, but it still doesn’t matter. The Resurrection doesn’t need to be verified by a piece of cloth. We already have all the evidence we need to believe that Jesus bodily rose from the tomb because of the eyewitnesses, historical records, & the existence of the Church starting in the very city where people saw Jesus crucified & could verify the empty tomb. They changed the day of worship from the Sabbath Saturday to Sunday in order to honor the Resurrection. Those early Christians began being baptized to “die, be buried, & rise with” Christ from a watery grave. They shared in weekly communion, eating bread & drinking fruit of the vine to not only memorialize His sacrifice but to proclaim their faith in the risen & soon-returning Lord of life! The Apostles went everywhere spreading this message, enduring persecution, torture & martyrdom. Nobody dies for something they know to be false.

Our faith stands or falls on the historicity of the Resurrection. If it didn’t happen, our faith is worthless & ought to be discarded as another silly superstition. But if it did happen, then Jesus really is Messiah, Lord, God, & Savior—& that’s all that ultimately matters. Jesus didn’t come just to make bad people good, good people better, or secular people spiritual. He came to make dead people live! Our faith isn’t built on a relic, shrine, or grave marker you can still visit, but on an empty tomb long since abandoned because Jesus isn’t there—He’s alive. Because He lives, we can live forever. Happy Easter!