Touch Me, Touch Me Not
Jesus saith unto her,
not; for I am not
yet ascended to my Father…
It’s always amazed me how
the simplest of sentences often leads to great controversy. The
sentence above is straightforward enough that if the verb
“ascend” is explained, a five year old could understand. Yet
scholars and bible students to this day disagree on whether
Christ meant for Mary ‘not to touch him’ or whether he was
instructing her to stop clinging to me, I haven’t gone to
heaven for good yet – I’ll still be with you for awhile now?
That’s the argument in the
simplest form. Just two sides of the coin to choose from:
Literally, don’t touch, or stop clinging.
The debate that rages on some two thousand years
later is centered not just on the wording, but the timing of His
ascension. What he said and what he meant all depend on when
the accession took place.
Did it happen on the morning of the
resurrection? Or forty days later on this occasion in Acts?
Act 1:9-11 And
when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken
up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven
as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand
ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up
from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have
seen him go into heaven.
Of course, the argument expands depending on what
you think the bible teaches about the purpose of the ascension.
What was the point of the final, public ascension in Acts? Was
it the only one?
There is much to decipher and consider in the
scriptures rich design. As we look at “here a little, and there
a little, line upon line,” we can peel back the layers and find
new treasures with every study.
Those who take the position of the ascension in
Acts being the final and only one, want us to understand Mary
was so relieved and overwhelmed to see the Lord after watching
the crucifixion, she grabbed Him, and held Him so that He would
not leave her again. That’s pretty solid reasoning. I pray we
would do likewise.
Surely all that is expressed there – not to
mention the comfort granted Mary in that version of the events:
Stop clinging, and let go for now, I’ll still be around for some
time to come, and you must go and tell others I am alive
You can picture that exact scenario in your
mind’s eye. It’s an easy explanation and a real possibility,
except for one important point: The book doesn’t say that.
We actually have a record from the beloved
Apostle of the conversation that took place on that morning.
And to change that record from what is recorded, given not only
the reliability of John’s writing, but more importantly the
inspiration and protection of the Holy Spirit, puts us on
One problem with the “stop clinging”
interpretation of the verse is nowhere else in scripture do you
find where quoted verbatim conversation is changed to say
something it doesn’t. What Jesus said
is this, but what he meant to say is this.
Furthermore, if the Holy Spirit wanted John to
report that Jesus said “don’t cling to me,” there’s evidence
that terminology was known to the Spirit.
Would ye tarry for them till they
were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my
daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand
of the LORD is gone out against me
they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her
mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
Ruth clave unto her.
Surely, if the meaning we are to get from John’s gospel about
Jesus and Mary was clinging, the term “clave” or cling might be
brought into play.
To accept the “stop clinging” position, you have
to change the very words of Christ and assume she was “cleaving
unto Him” but John (or Jesus) didn’t know how to express that.
Jhn 20:17 Jesus
saith unto her, Touch
for I am not yet ascended to my
Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto
my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God.
The very next words tell us a number of things:
He hasn’t ascended yet but he’s about to, and Mary needs to be
specific in telling His brethren: He’s going to ascend, to whom
and the relationship: My father, your Father, my God, your
What’s noteworthy about this discussion is Jesus
is going to appear to many of His brethren and sisters the same
day. And he knows that when he tells Mary to report about the
ascension. Does it make sense that He uses such immediate
language for Mary and instructs her to relay that message if
He’s truly not going to ascend for another forty days?
Can we be so bold to change the language – as
others must: “Stop clinging to me, I haven’t yet ascended,
but go tell my brethren that I will ascend, unless I get to them
first later this same day, then I’ll tell them that I will
ascend in forty days.” Nonsense. God forgive my folly in
trying to make a point.
Surely the more important message would be Jesus
is alive! He’s risen from the dead! He’s back among us and has
proven He’s the great conquering King, Messiah and Son of God.
But no, tell them I ascend.
And at the very next appearance, on the very same
day, Jesus allows them to touch him, handle him, cleave unto
him. Why? Because Mary could not touch him. She had no
physical evidence to report to the brethren. Consider what they
might have thought. Mary saw a spirit and not the Lord. I
believe if Mary had touched Him, she would have been unable to
keep that fact to herself.
Mary, if only you had touched Him to confirm He
was the Lord indeed, then could we believe and have confidence
in your report, but without that touching confirmation…
Sometimes, we over think issues, instead of
taking the scriptures for what they say. Touch me not, in the
morning, becomes “touch me, handle me,” that evening. If
“touch” were not an issue, the Spirit could have left that out
of the morning conversation and left the controversy off as
well. Touch me not is there for a reason.
Luk 24:36 And as
they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and
saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you
Luk 24:37 But
they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had
seen a spirit.
Luk 24:38 And
he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts
arise in your hearts?
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and
see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
Why couldn’t Mary have touched Jesus? Why use
that particular wording? The offering priest and the prepared
sacrifice could not be touched by one still in a sinful state.
Mary was such. And perhaps she didn’t recognize the Lord at
first, because of the clothing he wore – she, supposing him to
be the gardener, had never been allowed into that part of the
temple where she would put her eyes on the priestly garments.
We don’t like to talk about this fact, but Jesus,
whose garments went to those who cast lots for them, was naked
on the cruel cross. He was wrapped in a linen burial cloth.
Mary would have recognized that oversized cloth. On the morning
of the resurrection, Jesus was wearing garments brought unto him
After the resurrection, our Lord is still on
mission. He was working on the agenda set by God himself. He
was adhering to a calendar and timetable that was penned by
divine inspiration. He had an appointment with the eternal
Father and Judge of all mankind. First, He shows forth proof of
rising form the dead.
Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the
prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth
pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law,
till all be fulfilled.
Next, He is about to make the firstfruits wave
But the skeptics will point out there is only one
High Priest – and that year it was Caiaphas.
Then the high
priest rent his clothes, saying,
He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of
witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.
The Jews say that by rending or ripping his
garments, Capiaphas nullified his priesthood. How timely for
every jot and tittle to be fulfilled.
And he shall send Jesus Christ,
which before was preached unto you:
Whom the heaven must receive until the times of
restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of
all his holy prophets since the world began.
Let’s apply some logic here shall we? If “the
heaven” must receive Jesus until the times of restitution of all
things, can we safely surmise the agenda and calendar is still
Hbr 9:20 Saying,
This [is] the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined
Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all
the vessels of the ministry.
Hbr 9:22 And
almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without
shedding of blood is no remission.
Hbr 9:23 [It
was] therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the
heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things
themselves with better sacrifices than these.
Hbr 9:24 For
Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands,
[which are] the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now
to appear in the presence of God for us:
Hbr 9:25 Nor yet
that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth
into the holy place every year with blood of others;
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the
world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to
put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
This is heaven itself. We have to now ask: When
did this take place? At the death on the cross? Or at the
ascension immediately following the resurrection? Or at the
“final ascension” forty days later?
Jesus is fulfilling God’s calendar, keeping the
law and the feasts of the Father in perfection. (Don’t look at
these feasts as holidays, but rather God’s appointed times.)
Consider this: On the cross, He’s our Passover.
In the grave, he’s the unleavened bread, and on the morning of
the resurrection, at the exact time it was to be offered, he’s
fulfilling the first fruits offering.
Forty days later there is a public ascension.
Why forty days after the resurrection? Three times in the year,
Hebrew males were to appear before the Lord at the place
appointed. Unleavened bread, weeks and tabernacles. Jesus is
going to appear before the Lord God on Pentecost.
Our mission is not to tackle the whole of
scripture with this effort, but simply to try to rightly divide
the touch me, touch me not question. No matter which position
one takes, you must ask yourself this: Where was Jesus from the
time of this discussion until his appearance later that day unto
As for no ascensions until 40 days later? I
suppose we could argue He didn’t mean what he said that morning,
but how do we account for the witnesses on the road to Emmaus
and this ascension later that same day:
Luk 24:50-52 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and
he lifted up his hands, and blessed them , And it came to pass,
while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up
And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great
Brother Royce Ellis