John 20:1-10, Mark 15:42-47, I Peter 3:13-18

Gleaning from the Shroud of Turin

Three men appear at the gates of Heaven. St. Peter says, “To get into Heaven, you need to answer, ‘What is Easter?’”
The first man blurts out, “That’s when we gather around the table with our families to eat turkey.”
St. Peter scowls.
The second man replies “Easter is when we put up a tree and give gifts.”
St. Pete throws his hands up in disgust.
The last man says “Easter is when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.”
After His death, they took Him down from the cross, wrapped Him in a shroud, and put Him in a tomb and rolled a rock in front of the entrance.”
St. Pete turns to the other men and says, “This guy knows what he’s talking about.”
And then the man continues, “And He came out three days later and saw his shadow so there were six more weeks of winter.”

On April 24th, in a sermon titled Resurrection Realities, we considered four reasons that we believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. My purpose that day was two-fold.

The first was to encourage you in your faith; to be assured that because Jesus was raised so will we. As Paul declares in his second letter to the Corinthians: “We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to Himself” (5:14). That verse and others like it give us great hope that when we step through death’s door, we’ll be entering life eternal.

And the second reason was to equip us to, as Peter stated in today’s text: “Always be ready to explain the hope you have in you in a gentle and respectful way” (I Peter 3:15-16).

To encourage and equip. According to the scriptures, that’s my job. And so I want to encourage and equip today as we consider the burial shroud of Jesus that both Mark and John mention in their resurrection accounts.

Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock” (Mark 15:46).

As it concerns that long sheet of linen cloth, The Shroud of Turin is an approximately 14 by 3-foot piece of linen cloth that exhibits a very faint, barely discernable image of a naked, crucified man who many people say is Jesus.

As you can see, the image on the shroud has both a front and back view.

That’s because the shroud was stretched out, the body laid on it, and then it was folded over at the head as depicted here.

This map 1 indicates that the shroud was at some point taken from Jerusalem to the city of Odessa in modern Turkey. It’s not known how long it was in Odessa, but at some point was brought to Constantinople, perhaps by Constantine after he converted to Christianity. It is speculated that the shroud came under the protection of the Knights Templar and they are responsible for taking it to Lirey, France, where it surfaced about 1356. In 1453, it is known that the shroud was in Chambery, France when it was damaged in a fire that melted some silver that adorned the box that contained it which fell on the shroud and created the dark marks where the cloth was folded.

Finally, it was taken to Turin in 1578 and has remained there ever since in the Catholic Church of Saint John, the Baptist. 2

The shroud was last displayed publicly in 2015 when over 2 million pilgrims made their way to see it with their own eyes. As far as I have been able to determine, as of now, there is no future plan to display it. 3

Here are some intriguing fast facts that have been scientifically determined.

The most recent dating tests on the linen shroud indicate it could have existed anywhere between 300 BC and 400 AD, placing it well within the life of Jesus. 4

Similar types of burial shrouds with the same weave have been found dating to first-century Israel. 5

The shroud is exactly 8 cubits by 3 cubits, a unit of measure used in the Middle East during the time of Christ. 6

Flower pollen from a thorn bush named ‘Gundelia Tournefortii’, which is indigenous to the desert area in and around Jerusalem and not found anywhere else in the world has been found on the shroud.” 7

A Duke University professor working with an Israeli expert was able to identify 28 plant species on the shroud, 20 of which grow in Jerusalem and the other eight within 12 miles of Jerusalem. 8

Travertine limestone particles from the cave tombs in Jerusalem have been identified on the shroud. 9

When soil traces from the foot region of the shroud were analyzed for their composition at Chicago’s Enrico Fermi Institute, they matched the aragonite soil of Jerusalem. 10

In 1898, the first photograph was taken of the shroud. When the photographer developed it, what he saw shocked him as the negative revealed a positive image that contains amazing detail that cannot be seen on the shroud itself.

First we see a side-by-side view of the front and back. Then here’s just the front view a little closer.

And then a side by side view of the head; on the left how it appears on the shroud, on the right the negative image.

In other words, the actual image on the shroud is a negative. No one could explain then or now how a photographic negative could exist on a linen shroud. 11

Which brings us to 1978 when the Catholic Church authorized a team of scientists from the United States to do the first in-depth study of the shroud.

They were able to quickly identify the bloodstains near the wrists, the feet the spear would in His side and the dozens of lacerations all over His body from the Roman flogging.

Areas above and below the eyes are swollen and the nose appears to be broken. As many as 30 heads wounds have been identified. They confirmed the bloodstains around the head matched the Biblical account of, a crown of thorns. 12

Blood flows on the arms and the marks near the wrists and feet indicate the man had definitely been crucified.

One thing that puzzled investigators from quite some time was why the blood on the shroud was still red. Dried blood normally turns dark brown or black.
But then it was discovered that when red blood cell walls begin to rupture as they do in a person who has received a severe beating, bilirubin from the liver enters the bloodstream and causes the blood to remain red. 13

Using special photography techniques, they were surprised to discover the image of a coin over each eye. This was a common burial practice in first century Judaism. And guess what, the coin is the widow’s mite, referenced in Luke 21:2, a coin minted by Pontius Pilate between 29 and 32 AD. 14

The most intriguing thing discovered about the Shroud of Turin is what they haven’t been able to determine: how the image got there at all. It is definitely not a painted or drawn image. It was not left by decaying flesh.

A team of five Italian researchers tried to duplicate the image using various powders and chemicals and failed to even come close to the image. In fact, the closest they were able to get to duplicating the faint image was by discoloring the strands with microbursts from high-energy lasers. In an article published by Science News titled, Scientists Suggest Turin Shroud Authentic, they write,

Our experiments show that many (not all) the peculiar properties of the body image of the Shroud are produced by a burst of photons in a very narrow range of parameters (pulse duration, intensity, number of shots). In particular, vacuum ultraviolet photons account for the very thin coloration depth, the hue of color and the presence of the image in linen parts not in contact with the body. 15

Another researcher, Giuseppe Catalano, found photographic evidence that there was movement in the hands and feet at the moment the image was created. Either the body of Jesus was in motion or the shroud itself was falling in as this electromagnetic radiation was imprinted on the shroud. 16

More striking than the image itself, is the fact that the two-dimensional image on the shroud contains three dimensional information. Researchers used the same equipment and technology that NASA has used to take photographs of the surfaces of the moon and Mars from satellites for the purpose of making three-dimensional maps. And they were stunned to find that the two-dimensional image on the shroud yields three-dimensional information 17 as shown in this photo.

This has enabled experts to recreate the torso of the shroud-man.

And here is a side by side of the two dimensional and three dimensional face of Jesus.

And lastly 3-D computer graphics artist Ray Downing has created these two likenesses of the face of Jesus 18.

Can we be 100% certain the image is that of Jesus? Not 100%; however, the vast majority of scholars who have studied the shroud believe that it is. In fact, several of them joined the investigative team as skeptics, expecting to find a forgery, and have ended up being believers.

David Rolfe, a British documentary filmmaker was an atheist before he investigated the Shroud. He was so convinced by the evidence that he has made three documentaries. He says his encounter with shroud has changed his life as he is now a follower of Christ. 19

But we do not need proof to believe in the death and the resurrection of Christ. We belong to those Jesus was speaking of when He said to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20:29).

Nevertheless, the Shroud of Turin does provide strong empirical evidence of both the death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Evidence that both encourages and equips.

As it concerns encouragement, a theologian described heaven as an unknown region with a well-known inhabitant. Puritan theologian and hymn writer Ricard Baxter expresses that in these lines:

My knowledge of that life is small, the eye of faith is dim,
But it’s enough that Christ knows all, and I shall be with Him.” 20

To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting Him face to face and being with Him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life may throw at us.

As to equipping, consider this picture of the face of Jesus on the shroud that I am giving you today another tool you can place in your evangelism toolbox. Over the past few years, I have equipped you with the Do vs. Done method and the difference between religion and Christianity method. Several times over the years I have followed up Easter with a series of Bible-based messages on the cultural, historical, and literary reasons for believing in the resurrection of Jesus. And today, I invite you to put the Shroud of Turin in your pipe and smoke it with that hard-to-reach someone suffering from a healthy dose of skepticism.

And don’t forget that Peter tells us to engage with people with gentleness and respect. Don’t use this wonderful tool to badger folks. Use it to make them thirsty.

A young salesman was disappointed about losing a big sale, and as he talked with his sales manager he lamented, “I guess it just proves you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
The manager replied, “Son, take my advice: your job is not to make him drink. Your job is to make him thirsty.” 21

I pray that God will provide all of us an opportunity to create a thirst for Christ in people by introducing them to the Shroud of Turin.

1 map shroud of Turin – Bing images


3 How to See the Shroud of Turin in Italy
Martha Bakerjian, 2/13/20

4 New Test Dates Shroud of Turin to Era of Christ
Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
Published March 30, 2013.

5 First Photographs of the Shroud of Turin
MARCH 6, 2020

Dr. Fred Baltz, April 15, 2022

7 First Photographs of the Shroud of Turin
MARCH 6, 2020

8 The Miraculous Image on the Shroud of Turin: The Conclusive Final Say

Shroud of Turin Photo of Jesus

Dr. Fred Baltz
April 15, 2022

Shroud of Turin Photo of Jesus

12 The Shroud of Turin
Atlantic Province

Dr. Fred Baltz
April 15, 2022

16 AUG 2020

15 Scientists Suggest Turin Shroud Authentic
Dec 21, 2011 by Sergio Prostak

16 Study Claims Figure in Shroud of Turin Shows Movement
Jun 22, 2018 Paul Seaburn

Shroud of Turin Research Project.

The 3D Information on the Shroud of Turin
February 16, 2016

19 The Atheist Filmmaker and the Shroud of Turin

20 James Packer, Your Father Loves You, [Carol Stream, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, © 1986], Page for September 23.