Nov. 15, 2007; The Series - Jesus, Unique & Unequaled Teacher
Focus Text: John 20.11-18
Yesterday’s message introduced a significant conversation that took place between Jesus and Mary Magdalene; to refresh our memories, we will cite a portion of that text again. Recall that the setting is just after the resurrection of Jesus and before knowledge of His resurrection was known except by a very few, Mary Magdalene being one of that select group.
“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.”’ Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.” (John 20.17-18).
There are a couple of points that need to be made here and then we will move on to our main purpose in citing this text. It is certainly noteworthy that it was this woman, this loyal and constant devotee of Jesus, to whom Jesus entrusted the duty of telling others of His resurrection. Can you imagine the elation that Mary must have felt, first just to find out that He had risen, but secondly to be charged with such an awesome duty! Also, note the message that Mary was to bear and the explicit relationship that Jesus mentioned in it. “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” For someone to be told by the resurrected Christ that he/she has a common Father and God with Jesus surpasses the ability of humans to fully appreciate; the message is simply too grand for mortals to grasp – yet it was true!
Jesus cautioned Mary, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father…” Both the American Standard and the King James versions unfortunately render this phrase, “Touch me not…” Please note that Jesus absolutely was not forbidding physical contact by Mary; rather, His words have other meaning. One can know He had no concern for mere physical contact by the fact that, given a very similar set of circumstances, a group of women “… came [with His approval] and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.” (Matthew 28.9). Therefore, it is obvious that His comments to Mary were not made to prevent her from merely touching Him. Rather, we must search for another meaning to His words, “Do not cling to me.”
Do you recall the stern rebuke that Jesus uttered after Peter had rebuked Him? Remember that it was over Peter’s express wish that Jesus not allow Himself to be killed in Jerusalem as He had predicted would happen? Also recall that Jesus’ words to him had to do with Peter’s priorities in life; “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16.23). At that moment, Peter’s love for the physical Christ exceeded His love for the mission of Christ as the Lamb of God. I might suggest that this was Mary’s problem when Jesus told her to stop clinging to Him. There was a higher mission to which He had been called; there was also a higher mission with which she was now being charged. There was work to do and she could not do it while clinging to Him – regardless of the elation which she must have felt!
Jesus, Unique and Unequalled Teacher, never lost sight of the larger goal! (Continued)
1. In the focus text, why would Mary Magdalene have been inclined to hold on (cling) to Jesus?
2. What is implied by the fact that the disciples and the Christ had a common Father and God?
3. What evidence is there that Jesus was not merely telling Mary not to touch Him?
4. What would it mean to love the physical Christ more than the mission of the Christ? Can that be done today? If so how? When we love others physically more than we love the mission of Christ, what do you think Jesus would say to us were He physically here?
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