Summary: When the Risen Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to cling to Him, it was because Jesus wanted Mary to have a faith that went beyond the 5 senses. Jesus asks us to walk by faith, not by sight.
John 20:10-18 – Sight Unseen
Today I am preaching 2 different sermons on the same passage of Scripture. That’s really the power of the Bible – there is so much good stuff in there. Two different people can preach on the same passage and get 2 completely different sermons out of it. The same person can see more insight years later into the same passage after he or she has experienced more about God and His ways. And even on the same day, by the same person, the same passage can yield completely different results. Today’s other sermon on this passage is about things that cause us to be distracted from recognizing Jesus. And this message is about faith. Let’s read John 20:10-18.
Now, since Easter Sunday on April 16, we have been looking at various angles of the Resurrection. Here we are, several weeks later, and we still haven’t found the risen Savior. Well, we’re finding Him today. I say that but in truth, really, Jesus finds us. In today’s passage, Mary Magdalene went looking for Jesus, but she didn’t see Him until He met her. Every time, people went looking for Him, but He showed up when He meant to. Same today. We go looking for Him, and we should, but we find Him when He reveals Himself to us. In effect, He finds us.
And we see Jesus finding Mary Magdalene. Mary had been a devoted follower of His for a long time. She had been healed of demon-possession. I don’t believe that’s just a fancy name for mental stress. I don’t believe that people were just more superstitious back then, and that’s why they blamed mental health on demons. I believe there really are demons, and they really cause havoc in people. I find it easier to believe that people can be deceived and misled by invisible evil forces than to believe that people can be really evil by themselves.
At any rate, Mary Magdalene was demon-possessed, and Jesus healed her from them. Part of that, um, condition, was to be ostracized by society. That is, shunned, not accepted, kept at arms’ length from other, so-called normal people. But Jesus showed her love and compassion, and she showed Him devotion because of it.
Catholic theology says that she was the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Protestants usually reject that bit of Christian folklore, but even still, it’s a touching scene in The Passion of the Christ, when Mary is wiping up Jesus’ blood. She remembered Jesus standing up for her, and so she would stand up for Him. She stayed by Jesus’ side as He hung dying from the cross. She wasn’t afraid of publicly showing allegiance to a known criminal. She knew very well Jesus was no criminal, and she wasn’t afraid of the mob. This woman loved her Lord.
And so, it’s somewhat baffling as to why Jesus said what He said to her. Mary Magdalene had seen the open tomb, ran to tell the other disciples with the other woman at the tomb with her, and finally she returned to see the empty tomb again. When she got there, she was alone. She peeked into the tomb, and 2 angels asked why she was crying. She told them that she didn’t know where Jesus was.
At that moment Jesus appeared, and she noticed someone in the corner of her eye. She didn’t know it was Jesus, even when He asked her, “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Mary figured He was the gardener and she said to Him, “If you’ve taken Him, can I have Him back?” She would try with all her might to carry Jesus out of wherever He was.
At that point, Jesus opened her eyes and spoke her name. She turned to look directly at Him, and suddenly realized that the gardener was no mere weed-killer – he was the Author of Life!
And she ran towards Him, I’m assuming, and Jesus said these words: “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.” The KJV says, “Touch me not.” The NLT says, “Don’t cling to me.” However you word it, in the original language, it still means, “Don’t hang on to me too tightly.”
Well, hold on a second. There were other times as the Risen Savior that Jesus allowed, even encouraged people to touch Him. Matthew records the story of the women, including Mary Magdalene, to cling to His feet and worship Him. That same night, as Luke tells us, Jesus told His followers to touch Him and make sure He was no ghost. The next Sunday, a week later, Jesus told Thomas to touch His side, even put his finger in the wound in Jesus’ side, where the spear had driven through His ribcage and pierced His heart.