“Jesus said (to Mary), ‘Do not hold on to me,
for I have not yet returned to the Father.’ ”
(John 20:17 NIV).
Ms. Francis was babysitting 4-year-old Teddy and humming the hymn “Up from the Grave He Arose.” “What’s that song?” asked Teddy. “It’s about Jesus,” Ms. Francis replied. “Do you know about Jesus? “Yes! He died” Teddy said. “He did die,” Ms. Francis agreed. “But then what happened?” Teddy answered with a smile “He got up!”
The Greek word for resurrection is “Anastasia,” which literally means “to get up again.” Little Teddy was right. Jesus got up on that Easter Sunday morning. Death could not keep him down. The grave could not hold Him. The powers of darkness gave way to a brand new light of Easter.
Mary Magdalene saw Jesus early Easter morning. Understandably, she was overwhelmed with joy. After all that had happened – Jesus’ cruel, brutal, agonizing death on a cross and hasty burial – here Mary was in the presence of Christ once again. Her midnight had been turned into day. Gladness took the place of her sorrow. Her tears were suddenly wiped away.
When Mary saw Jesus she instantly reached out to Him, but Jesus backed away and commanded: “Do not hold on to me!” Jesus’ remark is translated as “Do not touch me” in the King James Version and “Do not cling to me” in the Jerusalem Bible. Why would Jesus deny Mary Magdalene the opportunity to hold Him, to touch Him, to cling to Him?
Jesus in His infinite wisdom recognized that Mary was having a serious problem. She wanted to resume her past association with Jesus. She wanted to go back to the good old days. She wanted things to return to the way they used to be. In the past, Mary enjoyed spending time with Jesus, being witness to his righteous and mighty acts, and breaking bread together. When Mary saw Jesus on Easter, she assumed they would pick up right where they left off.
Mary’s problem is a common one. Sometimes we are anxious to cling to old ways and we fail to perceive that God is doing a new thing. Isaiah reminds us: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
God is doing a new thing in the Church and in the world today. The question is, “Do you perceive it?”
Mary Magdalene represents those who hold on to the past and hinder themselves from experiencing new life and new possibilities. What new thing was God doing that Mary needed to perceive? Consider these three points:
First, Mary needed to recognize that she would no longer have permanent access to Jesus on earth. In John 16:7, Jesus told the disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Holy Spirit will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Jesus explained to the disciples that having the Holy Spirit come to them was more to their advantage than having him walking with them in the flesh. Mary needed to become aware that Jesus’ physical presence on earth was coming to a close. God was doing something new and Jesus did not want Mary to miss it.
Second, Mary needed to understand that Jesus’ presence with her and others would be by way of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was very clear with his followers/the disciples. He told them, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” While Jesus would no longer be with his followers/the disciples physically, He would be with them through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
A few years ago there was a famous commercial with the tagline: “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh-what-a-relief-it-is!” The commercial advertised Alka-Seltzer – a medicine designed to relieve upset stomachs. In a reaction that is quite volcanic, the Alka-Seltzer tablets fizz and bubble when dropped into water. What Jesus wants us to know is this: When people accept Him as Savior, God drops the Holy Spirit into our nature. The Spirit’s presence is designed to soothe upset lives, upset minds, and upset circumstances. God wants us to discover “oh-what-a-relief-it-is” to have the Holy Spirit within us.
Finally, Mary needed to understand that Jesus’ bodily presence would be with His heavenly Father. “I have come from God,” Jesus told them, “and I am going back to God.” Do not hold on to the past, Mary, because God has more in store for you. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
What are you holding on to that is hindering you from living out the fullness of God’s plan? What are traditions, beliefs, attitudes, or lifestyles you are holding on to that Jesus wants you to let go of? My prayer for you is that God would give you the power to let go of those things that stand in the way of a progressing relationship with Him. God wants to bless you. God wants to use you. Let go and let God!