2 April 2016

John 20:11-18

“Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because 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.”’” (v. 17)

Psalm: Psalm 150


Many of the themes we explored at the beginning of the week in the Gospel of Luke's account of Easter Sunday are also apparent in this version, but there are some unique emphases.

Mary articulates the heartbroken cry of all those across the centuries who have no body to bury, no grave to visit (verse 13). Somehow this lack of a physical focus for grief seems to make it so much harder to bear. It is perhaps some comfort to find this acknowledged by Scripture.

Like the women in Luke's Gospel, Mary found it hard to adjust to the new reality in which a dead man met her in a garden. Because she knew Jesus was dead she failed to recognise him. Sometimes our assumptions about what we know and about what is possible blind us to the reality that is before us. Yet it is significant that when she heard him speaking her name, she did know him. God calls us each by name in an intimate and personal way that not only reveals Godself to us, but also shows us who we truly are in God's love. Thus it is natural that it is when Jesus spoke her name Mary not only knew him, but had her mind opened to resurrection life and her own participation in it.

We might imagine that Mary was hurt at Jesus' apparent rebuff - "Do not hold onto me". It is the most natural thing in the world to want to hold on to the one we love and never let them go, especially if we have once lost them and believed we would never see them again. But poignant as this scene is, it is not ultimately about a private reunion. As Jesus explained to Mary, she needed to release him from that present moment of personal closeness into his timeless existence as the eternal redeemer of all people.

Yet, for all that, Jesus did not leave Mary or send her away until after he had given her the assurance she needed: "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Although she would no longer be able to touch him and hold him, he would always be one with her in God - for in God she and all people could now participate with him in resurrection life. And Mary was to be the first witness and apostle to this great hope for all people.

To Ponder

  • Is there anybody you need to let go so that they can fulfil their God-given destiny? What do you need first in order to be able to let go?
  • Have you ever wanted to preserve a special moment? What other moments might you have lost by doing so?

Bible notes author

The Revd Anna Bishop

Anna Bishop is a wife, mother and Methodist presbyter. She is currently without appointment while her two small children teach her a spirituality of interruption! She is living in the Salisbury circuit, where she leads Baby-interrupted Bible Study and Little Blessings, a service of worship for babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their carers.