Sunday, April 19

Touching the Resurrected Rabbi

There is an interesting contrast in how, in his resurrection appearances, Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to touch him but did invite Thomas to touch him. He was not being unfair. In each case there is an irony, and a point.

When Mary finally realized she was not talking to the keeper of the cemetery garden, but to her Rabbi Jesus, he said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17). The “yet” implies that later on, after he had ascended to the Father, she WOULD be able to cling to him. That’s ironic. It would seem easier to hold on to him while he was in his flesh and blood, resurrected body in the space time universe. However, he leaves the space/time dimension not in order to abandon it, but to FILL it—to be present to all time and all space as Lord of the Universe ( Ephesians 1:23 ). Mary could have 24/7 access then.

Thomas was more avoidant than Mary. Not only did he not linger in the cemetery garden, like she did, he did not even join the other disciples later that evening when the risen Lord appeared to them. A week later Thomas did join them, and Jesus made a repeat appearance just for him, showing up suddenly in the middle of a locked room. Why? It was essential that his apostles—all eleven of them be able to give eye-witness testimony to the resurrection, because even though the ascended Lord would be available to believers through the ages, it was God’s will that new disciples would believe in him based on their original eye-witness testimony. An indispensable point of their Gospel is that this human being who was crucified is Yahweh, the God of Israel, as Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God.” It is ironic that the humanness of Jesus’ scars revealed his full divine status.

It is not correct to think that Jesus’ resurrected body had to be contained in a certain location in order to remain human. If Jesus could simply materialize before his disciples without opening a door or crawling through a window, clearly his resurrected body had a different relationship with space/time than it did before, when he voluntarily submitted to our limitations in order fulfill righteousness for us. Released from such limitations when he ascended to the Father’s side, the Lord became able to deliver his righteousness to us. He does it through the message of his apostles being passed down through history and through the intrusion of the Holy Spirit from above, so that the same Jesus who showed himself to his original disciples becomes present to all later disciples who believe their testimony. 

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the testimony of the apostles and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and how they have worked together in my life to create and sustain my faith. Help me better appreciate the mystery of your abiding presence with me and the power of affirming out loud that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and God.

Conversation Starter:
Consider how Jesus tailored his approach to the unique personalities and dispositions of Mary, Thomas, and others; so how has the Lord tailored his grace to you, to fit your particular personality, disposition, or circumstances?