But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.‘”
— John 20:11-17
There was something about this scene that troubled me for years. The King James Version says that Jesus told Mary Magdalene, “Do not touch Me …” and I had wondered for years why Jesus would be so cold-hearted as to push away this woman who had just gone from being totally gutted to elated beyond belief.
And “gutted” wouldn’t begin to describe Mary’s state of mind in the days surrounding the crucifixion. After all, the word “maudlin” — meaning a state of over-the-top grief and despair — is derived from “Magdalene”. And one can barely imagine: the Man whose actions had delivered her from demons, possibly the only Man who actually treated her as a human being and not someone who was lower than dirt, had been unjustly accused, arrested, put through a show trial in which anyone who could have testified in His favour was nowhere to be found, then nailed to a cross and left to die there.
Worse, when she goes to minister to His body, even that is gone. She can’t even look at Jesus’ remains! Was this all a dream? Was none of it real?
So when she realizes that the Man standing in front of her is Jesus, of course she’s going to leap and embrace Him. Why would Jesus be so uncompassionate as to back away or even push her away?
But when I saw the NKJV above, the light went on.
“Don’t cling to Me.”
He gives the answer in the very next breath: “I have not yet ascended to My Father“.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”
— John 16:7
Jesus is telling Mary not to cling to that earthly, flesh-based representation of Him, or any mortal body, because He had promised to send something even more important than He: the “Helper”, the “Comforter” (as KJV puts it); the Holy Spirit. At that point, He had not gone up to Heaven: He had a few more words to say to His disciples before doing that.
This is an important point for us. The things of the world are not for us to cling to. Instead, we can reach up and receive the Holy Spirit and let it cling to us. (I’m a little sorry that the word “comforter” didn’t take on the meaning of “quilt” or “duvet” until 1832 — more than 200 years after KJV was published — because that metaphor would be fitting (sorry about that, too).)
What do we cling to? Money? Drugs? Fantasies? Personalities? Our own intelligence and education? Anyone else’s intelligence and education?
Can any of the above:
“… convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
— John 16:8-11
Do any of them have anything on this:
“When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”
— John 16:11
There’s one of my favorite words in the Bible: “ALL”. Nothing this world offers can provide us with all truth, yet the Holy Spirit — the Comforter, the thing we must cling to — hears directly from God and passes that on, unfiltered, to us, when we let Him.
So let’s let Him. We may have had our lives gutted, torn apart, hope stripped away; reach out and reach up; ask the Holy Spirit into your life and listen to Him. Then you can truly say, as Mary Magdalene did, “I have seen the Lord!”