Why would John be so careful and concerned to draw our attention to something so simple and set aside? He makes sure to point out a handkerchief that had covered the face of the dead Lord Jesus that was carefully folded and laid in a corner by angel’s hands. It had never been used for anything except as a covering for the face of Jesus, and even that use had been made impractical when Jesus rose from the dead, His face radiating with life. As a result, there was no longer a need for the handkerchief. It was intended to have only been used in the grave, and now, even in the grave it was useless. So, why didn’t the angel just pass it by? Why did that angel pick it up and carefully, tenderly, gingerly fold it and place it by itself?
It is simple to understand why the leftovers from the feeding of the thousands would be gathered up in baskets, because they could be used to make another feast. But the handkerchief had reached its final sphere of use and as such there was no further need of it. So, why would heavenly hands be so intent on preserving it? Because all of our discarded past still lives in the thought of God. Those things that we use up and toss away are gathered up by Heaven. Heaven takes our leftovers and those things that we have discarded and puts them into its storehouse. Those dead things in my past – the things that I dismiss with scorn – are treasured by the hand of the Almighty. They are meant to meet me again in the light of the Resurrection – to be seen from another vantage point – from the top of the hill.
Many a dead garment is glorified by a memory. Many flowers bloom in the heart long after they have withered in the garden. This handkerchief had been a part of the most joyful event in all of human history. It had been the symbol of tears. It was meant to be a badge of victory. It had been a mark of defeat, failure and certainly death. Yet it became a sign of triumph, success and eternal life. God says of the discarded years, “I will not let them go until you have blessed them.”
How I long for the Lord to teach me the triumph of that treasured handkerchief. How I long to really know the truth that Heaven has a place for those things that I have tossed away. How many times have I thrown things like these grave clothes to the side and He picked them up and treasures them? How many things have I tossed something as trash and He simply, carefully picked them up, folded them and put them to the side for a future glory?
Its evident that so many of the moments that I have considered wasted have turned out to be the most profitable. I have spent hours in what seemed to be a desert of the soul – useless, rubbish, nothing – time spent standing still, driven away and yet, when I looked back I discovered that it wasn’t a desert at all, but a garden. It turns out that what I thought was wasted time was in fact the most important hour, the moment when an angel ministered to me.
“Lord, help me to look with understanding and reverence on my discarded garments. When I feel that I have outgrown them; when I feel that they have cramped me, limited me, confined me, let me reverence and remember them. Let me remember that in the light of that resurrection morning I will see them from another vantage point and will realize that even if I think I’ve outgrown them, You haven’t. They are part of the vesture of Your love and grace and will be vindicated by Your perfect day. All of my dead things will live again in You. Amen.”