Then, as she wept, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she replied, ‘and I don know where they have put him.’ As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She turned round then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find my brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father to my God and you God.’ So Mary of Madgala told the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’ and that he had said these things to her.”
John 20: 11-18
Have you ever had a loved one return from a long trip? The first thing you want to do is run up to them and give them a big hug. The longer they’ve been away, the more you want to hug ‘em. It seems like you just can’t get enough of that person. I know I’m like that. By the same token, if you are the person who has been away then, you too, want to embrace your loved ones the minute you see them. It’s like you need to physically reassure yourself that you’re actually home.
In the light of this it seems cold, and perhaps almost cruel, that Jesus spurned Mary’s affection after the Resurrection. Why would he turn her away? I’ve always felt sorry for Mary in this story. Why would Jesus push her away at a time when most people would want…even need an embrace? Mary must have been terribly hurt by His apparent rejection. Still, why did Jesus do that? This question has always puzzled me.
We have to ask ourselves who did Mary actually “see” when she beheld Jesus after the Resurrection? Did she “see” the risen Lord? Did she “see” His resurrected body? No, she didn’t. The scriptures tell us that she didn’t recognize Jesus when she first saw Him. In fact, she didn’t know who it was until He called her name. It was at that point, that she finally “saw” Jesus.
However, she saw the Jesus she used to know and that’s the Jesus she wanted to reach out to and touch. That is the person she wanted to hold onto so tightly that she would never lose Him again. Jesus pushed her away because He was no longer that person. He had moved beyond His earthly existence into His existence as the risen Lord and He wanted Mary to “see” that. He wanted her to “see” the person He had become and He wanted Mary to move beyond the person she had been before the crucifixion. In short, He was inviting her to share in the Resurrection with Him, to become a new person in Him. She would not have been able to do that if she had embraced Him as the earthly Jesus she once knew.
Yet, there is another person whose touch Jesus actually invited. That person was Thomas. So, why Thomas and not Mary? Because, unlike Mary, Jesus knew that touch was the vehicle that would allow Thomas to behold Him in the glory of the Resurrection. For Thomas, touch would be the very thing that would bring him directly into the Lord’s Resurrection and therefore into his own personal transformation. Before he touched Jesus, Thomas, like all the other disciples, doubted the Resurrection. (see an earlier post about Thomas)After connecting with Jesus, Thomas became a new man…a giant in the faith. After laying his hands into Jesus’ wounds, Thomas truly “saw” the risen Lord, he knew it was the risen Lord and he declared it by saying: “My Lord and my God!” Thomas was the first person to behold Jesus as He truly is, he was the first person to proclaim Jesus’ divinity and because of this he was the first person to “touch” God.
This Easter season, let us dare to answer the Lord’s invitation to walk into the Resurrection with Him and be made new.