LISTEN: Crowder, "I Am," http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cH_LLGiE0f0
One of the things I love most about the "50 Days of Easter" is that we get to take time and delve deeply into the powerful post-resurrection stories in the gospels. One favorite of mine is from John 20: 14-17 - the story of Mary Magdalene's encounter with the risen Lord. Initially she doesn't recognize him. Jesus asks, "Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?" Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener! Jesus calls her by name,"Mary!" and suddenly it clicks for Mary -- and she addresses Jesus as "Rabboni" the Aramaic word for teacher.
Then Jesus says a curious thing. He tells Mary, "Don't touch me," or "don't cling to me," "don't hold on to me," because "I have not yet ascended to the Father."
Jesus touched people; Jesus especially touched people who were sinners or unclean. Even with Thomas (John 20:27), Jesus told him to touch his wounded hands and side. Matt. 28:29 records that the women who witnessed the Risen Lord held him by his feet and worshiped him. People also touched Jesus, sometimes hoping just to touch the fringe of his cloak in order to be healed (Luke 8:44-45). So why would Jesus deny Mary this opportunity to embrace Jesus? She was upset and she was faithful.
There are lots of theories. Was Jesus in pain? Was Mary too clingy? What was John trying to say?
Perhaps Jesus was teaching Mary and preparing her for the next step in her spiritual journey. He did not push her away. Jesus wanted to show Mary a new connection - an eternal connection that would transcend time, creation and space. Because of Jesus, the cross and empty tomb, we can touch Jesus -- not physically -- but through our mind and our emotions. The stories in the bible come alive because the Spirit works through them and touches our hearts.
Each of us is on a journey with Jesus. Sometimes we are "babes in the Lord," and our understanding is limited. Other times, through our trials and efforts and through the grace of God we mature and our wisdom goes deeper. We develop humility, tolerance, kindness and patience - qualities that enable us to be in touch with God, and to touch the hearts of others - even others very different from ourselves. Just as a parent trains a child to be responsible, develop insight and to share, so Jesus does with us -- as he did with Mary. In three verses she went from weeping and confusion to becoming an apostle to the apostles. That is the task of the spiritual life. To stop clinging to what no longer applies and hold fast to what is deepening our capacity to love and serve.
What are you clinging to that no longer works?
How is Jesus touching your life right now? How are you touching others and making a difference?
PRAY: "Lord, touch my heart so that I may let go. Lord, touch my heart so that I may hold fast to where you are leading me. Lord, touch others through me."