Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus after his
resurrection (Mk. 16:9). When he spoke to her, she supposed that he
was the gardener. It was not until he called her by name that Mary
turned and said to him, "Rabboni," which means Master.
Jesus said to 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" (Jn.
Why did Jesus forbid Mary Magdalene to touch him? This question
is puzzling especially in view of the Master's having said to
others following his resurrection, "Behold my hands and my feet,
that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not
flesh and bones, as ye see me, have" (Lk. 24:39).
Also, it was after his resurrection and before he ascended to
the Father that Jesus said 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" (Jn. 20:27).
For what reason would some be invited to handle his body while
Mary was forbidden to touch him?
Shortly after the appearance to Mary, Jesus met certain women
as they went to tell his disciples about the empty tomb, "And they
came and held him by the feet, and worshiped him" (Matt. 28:10).
Why were they allowed to hold him by the feet but Mary was
prohibited from touching him?
The key to this puzzle seems to be in the meaning of the word
"touch" as it is used in John 20:17. It denotes much more than
reaching forth with the hands to make contact. It signifies "to
cling to, lay hold of" (Vine). The New King James Version renders
it, "Do not cling to Me." The New International Version translates
it, "Do not hold on to me."
Mary longed for unbroken fellowship with her Master. She wanted
to cling to him. Jesus told her not to hold on to him, for he had
not yet ascended to the Father. The constant communion which she
desired must wait until after his return to heaven. Jesus would not
resume his daily visible association with his followers. He would
soon leave this physical realm to be with the Father on high. The
fellowship which we now have with Christ is far richer and need not
Now that Jesus Christ has ascended to the Father and is seated
at his right hand in the heavens, we should cling to him and hold
(1) We have fellowship with Christ. Through submission to the
gospel we are brought into a shared relationship with our Savior.
And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus
Christ" (1 Jn. 1:3). This divine and precious communion is
sustained by our walking in the light, confessing our sins, keeping
his commandments, loving one another, abiding in him, believing in
him, and overcoming the world.
(2) The Spirit of Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. "And
because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into
your hearts, crying 'Abba, Father'" (Gal. 4:6). Paul prayed for his
brethren that they might "be strengthened with might by his Spirit
in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith"
(Eph. 3:16,17). "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all
wisdom" (Col. 3:16).
(3) We are to hold on to our profession of him. "Seeking then
that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens,
Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession" (Heb. 4:14).
One who confesses that Jesus is Lord should stick to that
acknowledgment. "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith
without wavering" (Heb. 10:23).
(4) We are to cling to the Lord. The converts to Christ at
Antioch of Syria were exhorted by Barnabas, "that with purpose of
heart they would cleave unto the Lord" (Acts 11:23). The true
disciple continues with the Master, abides in him, and refuses to
To Mary Magdalene the crucifixion of Jesus was a horrible
experience. Perhaps her hopes were shattered. To see the Master
alive brought joy indescribable. She yearned for his abiding
presence, but Jesus was not long to remain in the visible flesh and
bone body. She must not hold on to him. Soon he would ascend to the
Father. After the ascension and the sending of the Spirit to guide
the apostles, uninterrupted fellowship began to be offered through
the gospel. No longer does the Master forbid clinging to him.
Through the message of the apostles he encourages us to come to
him, to abide in him, and to hold constantly to him.
I will cling to my Savior and never depart,
I will joyfully journey each day,
With a song on my lips and a song in my heart,
That my sins have been taken away.
by Irvin Himmel -- Via Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 8, p. 244, April 20, 1989
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