Saturday, March 29, 2014

Don't Touch Me!

After Christ’s resurrection, why did He tell Mary Magdalene not to touch Him when He appeared to her at the empty tomb? This seems to contradict Hs instructions to Thomas and the other disciples shortly thereafter, when He told them to “handle” Him and to feel His side.

John 20:17 Jesus saith unto [Mary], Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
…27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

It seems that in both these appearances, Christ was in His glorified resurrection body, and not a disembodied Spirit. Mary did not recognize Him (v. 14) until He called her name (v. 16), but there must not have been anything ghost-like about His appearance, as she assumed He was the gardener and asked Him questions about where they had taken her Lord (v. 15).

Some suggest that this was a gender issue – that it was not appropriate for Mary to touch the risen Christ, whereas Thomas and the apostles were permitted to do so. But during His earthly ministry, Jesus did not rebuke the sick woman who touched the hem of His garment for healing (Luke 8:43-48), nor did He prohibit Mary from anointing His head and feet with oil and drying His feet with her hair (Luke 7:37-39; Matthew 26:7-13). According to social standards of the time, Mary’s lavish physical acts of worship would have bordered on scandalous, but He did not deny her this intimate contact. He knew that her motive was not fleshly lust, but pure adoration of her Lord,

Clearly His glorified resurrection body was different from the physical body He inhabited during His time on earth, but would that alone have prevented contact? He told His apostles to “handle” Him to see that He was made of flesh and bone (but not blood; Luke 24:39-40), and He ate in that body (Luke 24:39-40; John 21:15). Yet He was able suddenly to appear and to vanish, apparently instantaneously passing through solid walls (Luke 24:31,36; John 20:19).

Jesus in His risen body told Thomas to thrust his finger into His nail-scarred hands and his hand into His pierced side. The other apostles had already seen these wounds and believed Jesus had risen (John 20:20), but Thomas demanded a tactile experience (John 20:25), which the Lord did not deny him.

At first reading of John 20:17, it might seem that between Christ’s appearances to Mary, and then to Thomas and the others, He ascended to His Father. If that is the case, it might be that Jesus had to present Himself to the Father to verify His completed work on the cross (John 19:30; Hebrews 2:14-15), and He had to remain pure of earthly contamination until then. This does not seem sensible to me, as even stepping on the ground might be a form of contamination – particularly the ground around a tomb, which would be unclean by Mosaic Law (Leviticus 10:10; Numbers 19:11,14,16).

To me, it makes more sense that as His physical body perished, His Spirit went immediately into the hands of the Father (Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46) and was in Paradise that same day (Luke 23:43). Three days later, as foretold by the prophets and by Himself, He rose from the dead and appeared to His followers in His glorified resurrection body (Luke 24:7,21,46, 1 Corinthians 15:4; etc.).

Scripture tells us that Christ ascended into Heaven 40 days later (Acts 1:2-11), being observed by the 11 remaining apostles and by angels. “I ascend” in John 20:17 therefore seems not to mean “I am at this moment completing the act of ascension,” but rather, “I am in the process of ascending, or about to ascend, which will not be completed until 40 days later.”

Yet something important and wonderful had clearly changed since Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day, as He told Mary to tell the news not to His “apostles,” or “disciples,” or even His “friends,” (John 15:13) but rather to His “brethren!” (Matthew 28:10; John 20:17) He was their Lord and Master (Matthew 10:24-25; John 13:13-14), but because He had now paid the price for all our sins and redeemed us from sin and death (Romans 8:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:25-27), all who trusted Him became His brethren (Hebrews 2:11,17).

As Jesus Christ would later reveal to Paul, believers in Him were now His joint heirs, adopted children of the Father (Romans 8:14-17); and even His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Yet Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16), and the Lamb of God (John 1:29,36), which is why He made the distinction between “my Father” and “your Father” and “my God, and “your God” (John 20:17).

The best explanation for why Jesus told Mary “Touch me not,” may center on the word translated “touch” in the KJV. Some other versions translate this as “cling to” or “hold fast,” which may be closer to the Greek word haptomai, which some commentaries say means “grab hold of.” We see the other women holding the risen Jesus by the feet to worship Him as they realize Who He is (Matthew 28:9).

What was Mary’s reaction as she realized her beloved Jesus was not dead, but standing beside her? Any of us encountering a loved one we had given up for dead would have the same reaction – to want to fling our arms around them, clasp them tightly, and embrace them as if we would never again let them go.

But Jesus did not rise from the dead to give earthly comfort to those He loved during His ministry; He rose to give all who trust Him eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:12-26). He wants us to cling to Him, abide in Him (John 15:4-7), and remain in Him (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 1:2; etc.) – not physically, but spiritually.

Not until we reach Glory will we have the awesome privilege of not only seeing Him face to face, but of knowing Him fully as He now knows us (1 Corinthians 13:12). Not only may we fall prostrate at His feet and feel His healing touch (Revelation 1:17), but He will tenderly wipe away every tear from our eyes (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; 21:4). I believe He will embrace us lovingly as He did the children brought to Him for a blessing (Mark 10:13-16).

I believe Jesus was telling Mary, in effect: “Don’t try to keep me here with you, as much as you want to, but know that I am going to my Father so that all who love me can abide in me spiritually until I come again to bring all of you to myself. I have walked the earth with you for three years, but now you must learn to walk by faith, not by sight.” (John 14:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:7)

So why did He allow Thomas to perform a physical examination of His wounds? Thomas’ motive for touching Jesus was different than Mary’s. She wanted to cling to Him out of love, blended perhaps with fear that He would again leave her. The other disciples trusted their vision to know that Jesus’ wounds proved His identity, yet Thomas doubted their account and needed tactile proof. Even though Our Lord was merciful in allowing Thomas the evidence he needed, He said that those with greater faith, who did not need sensory evidence, were blessed indeed ((John 20:25-29). 

That would be all of us who have faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only way to Heaven (John 14:6), based on His Word, without the luxury of having seen or heard Him in person! Praise God that Jesus Christ did not remain on earth, but instead ascended to the Father, where He continually intercedes for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25), and where He is preparing a special place where each of us will spend eternity with Him! (John 14:1-3) Praise God that He ascended so that He could send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter (John 14:16,26; 16:7), to live within each believer’s heart! 

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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Ceil said...

Hi Laurie! I completely agree with your conclusion. I think Jesus wants us to see him as Lord and Savior, but not to cling to his identity as a man. That must have been such a 'head shift' for Mary! I think I would have responded just like her though. Having Christ in the flesh must have been such a powerful experience.

Happy Weekend!

Nadwrażliwiec said...

Thank You for this post about Resurection. I also thougth why He ordered Mary Magdalene do not touch Him. For it was riddle. Thank You for giving light on this issue. Greetings for You :)

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
This is such a full post with many scriptures and questions, I feel I would have to look at all the scriptures to be able to comment on it truthfully and give a studied opinion on the scriptures.. I have had a really busy week this week and it is good that your post will be here for me to be able to study these scriptures on a quiet day. This is something I enjoy doing.
God bless you

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
This is indeed a very enlightening post, as I have wondered in the past why Jesus said those words to Mary. But that was after his Resurrection.
I have always been mystified on what actually happened during the three days of his burial. Our church elders had always insisted that immediately after his death, his spirit went straight to his Father's throne before the physical Resurrection took place. I tend to disagree. In 1 Peter 3:18-20 there is this incident of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison, who were on the earth before the Flood of Noah. This seem to confirm what he said in Matthew 12:40, that he will be three days and three nights in the bowels of the earth.
This must mean the period between his death and his Resurrection.
An excellent post.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Ceil! What an amazing experience that must have been for the disciples and those close to Him who walked the earth with Him. May we cling to Him as our Lord, knowing that even though we can't see Him, He will never leave us nor forsake us.
May you have a blessed week in Him!

Laurie Collett said...

You're very welcome, Zim! I'm glad you found the post to be helpful. Blessings & greetings to you,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Hope this post is helpful to you in your study time, and I look forward as always to your sharing your insights.
May God bless you and your ministry,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thanks as always for your encouraging and enlightening comments. The 1 Peter 3:18-20 passage does suggest that He was in the bowels of the earth after His death, as does His telling the thief on the cross that he would be in Paradise (also in the center of the earth) that day with Christ. I believe that His "preaching" to the spirits in prison was not for the purpose of their conversion, as their eternal destiny was already determined, but to proclaim His victory over sin and death. So many fascinating subjects to study regarding His death and Resurrection!
God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie. The things on earth are temporary and we ought not cling to them.

Denise said...

I agree, bless you.

Anonymous said...

I'm stopping by from Make Your Home Sing Mondays. I agree with your conclusions, too! I think you summed it up best by pointing out that we are to cling to the Lord, spiritually, not physically. :)

Brenda said...

I think there are many things that we may not understand in the scriptures Laurie. The reason that Jesus said 'touch me not' to Mary is explained by Jesus in 'for I have not yet ascended to the Father', and I believe we 'recognize' Jesus through His word to us. Being 'brethren',to me, indicates that you have become a child of God and are in communication with the Lord through His Word. I love the fact that in v.29 Jesus says 'blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed'. I have come across many scriptures that the Lord has highlighted to me personally in my life and yet, although I have not seen Jesus physically, or what that scripture says has not come about yet, I have believed that scripture, which is the Word, whom Jesus is, and have been blessed by doing so if I hold fast to it and not let reasoning of the carnal mind interfere with the process of going through a trial. One of the most beautiful words He has spoken to me was 'Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.' They prove themselves true, as do all enlightened scripture if we do not let the one who was a liar from the beginning convince us otherwise. I do not want to be like Thomas who needed to have proof of everything before he believed. As I put in one of my posts 'for me believing is seeing, not seeing is believing.' That is not to say that this is always easy and that some trials are very hard, it is a spiritual battle. I must also be a doer of that word, not just a hearer, particularly if it is a word of correction. I must not continue willfully in sin, as Paul the apostle said, if I am being made in the image of my creator.
God bless you and thank you for writing on an interesting topic. It is good to discuss all things with one another.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! Our true treasure is in Heaven.
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

God bless you too, Denise!

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks so much for your visit & comment! He is truly all we need. Hope you come back soon!
Many blessings to you,

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you so much, Brenda, for your thorough comment and for sharing your insights. We are blessed to live by faith in the promises revealed in God's Word, and in Jesus Christ the Living Word. Yet what amazing joy we shall have when we see Him face to face! In the meantime, may we first seek His righteousness.
God bless,

Gillena Cox said...

"The best explanation for why Jesus told Mary “Touch me not,” may center on the word translated “touch” in the KJV. Some other versions translate this as “cling to” or “hold fast,” which may be closer to the Greek word haptomai, which some commentaries say means “grab hold of.” We see the other women holding the risen Jesus by the feet to worship Him as they realize Who He is (Matthew 28:9)."

this is the one i feel most comfortable with

Have a nice Thursday

much love...

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Gillena! Yes, I agree that this is the the best explanation.
Love in Him,