Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
When you first read this account, Jesus’ words to Mary Magdalene sound a little harsh. She is clinging to Jesus, weeping and overcome with joy that her Lord is not dead but alive; and he says to her, “Do not cling to me.” Ouch.
However, knowing Jesus, we can be assured that his words where not said with Spock-like coldness and without purpose. He is the source and author of love and so we need to hear and understand his words in light of who he is and what he has said. So why does Jesus say to her, “Do not cling to me”?
The reason Jesus gives is because he has not yet returned to the Father. Jesus says, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”
Jesus is not telling Mary to stop clinging to him physically, but rather Jesus is addressing her heart and what her clinging to him represents. Mary’s pure, unrestrained joy of having Jesus back, alive from the dead, was more than her soul could contain. He was back and her hellish nightmare of losing her precious Savior, Lord and friend was over. Mary’s clinging to Jesus represented how much she treasured him and how overjoyed she was to have him back.
So when Jesus commands Mary to not cling to him (i.e. don’t be so overjoyed now that you have me back) it’s because to have him back physically was not the ultimate best for her or his disciples.
In John 16:7, Jesus tells his disciples, “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 go, I will send him to you.”
What Jesus is teaching is that there is a deeper communion, a more intimate and more REAL relationship that they will have with him and the Father AFTER he leaves! Think about this for a second… No, think about this for a while. What Jesus is teaching is that his physical presence pales in comparison to the presence of the Spirit (the Helper) in us. It is better to have the Spirit in us than to have Jesus outside of us. Do you believe that?
Do you believe we can have a more intimate relationship with Jesus than those who physically saw him, touched him, listened to him and hugged him? Jesus says you can. Therefore, let us not settle for routine religious practices, token prayers of unbelief or lives lived as if God were a galaxy away. He is with you. He is near. He knows what you are thinking, feeling and longing for. He knows your pain, your hatred and your loves. He cries with you, laughs hysterically with you and burns in holy anger with you. Choose to imaginatively live this truth in your speaking, doing, sleeping, playing, lovemaking (in covenantal marriage of course!), dreaming and working. He is near and He wants to commune with you.
To those who have believed that he is near but are currently going through a “valley of the shadow of death”, I implore you to keep on trusting and believing. You will not be put to shame. Wait on him for he is faithful.