A Journey Toward Relationship - not Real Estate! Part 2
Stop clinging to Me,...
As Jesus spoke her name Mary’s awareness was enlightened just as the dawn was breaking around her, yet he had to exhort her: Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”John 20:17 There is no direct indication here that she was physically holding onto him. Might we suggest that it was her previous perception of him that she must stop clinging to? Her understanding - and ours - is limiting.
The verb, primarily, means to fasten to. Hence it implies here, not a mere momentary touch, but a clinging to - or a holding onto. The function of her expectations attempted to hold Him in place. From Vincent’s Word Studies: Christ says, "the time for this kind of intercourse is over. Henceforth your communion with me will be by faith through the Spirit. This communion will become possible through my ascending to the Father." As with Mary we too must experience a transformation.
He stepped back into the Presence of the Father, but he did not step back the same way he stepped forth. (He didn’t just “go back to being God again” after his earthly life. N.T. Wright) For now he is not only able to say My Father, but your Father as well. One who was and is fully one of us has prepared the way into Father’s presence: “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Son of His love” Eph. 1:6. Mary Magdalene could not cling to him as he once was, she (and all humanity) must release him to be as he now is. This challenge continues to face us - its eternal benefits only being appropriated by faith.
Relationship is about a state of being.
Our attempts to conform God into our own image are betrayed when we try to define His activity in finite terms. Having clearly existed in the finite, Christ was now in the process of slipping its bonds and could not be held back - even by Mary Magdalene’s most sincere expressions of devotion. She was clinging to what once was - he must escape her grasp so that he could fully become who he was and is and is to become: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 The strength of this statement is in its presentness. Who he was and who he was to become can only be comprehended in the light of whom he is presently. The commentator Philip Hughes states: “the end that lies hidden in the beginning; and the unbreakable line that connects the first to the last is ‘the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11)” The sum total of the predetermined purpose of the Father is that the Son would be the firstborn of many brethren (Romans 8:29).
Peter, having received the blessing of the Lord, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you,...” just as quickly receives the severe rebuke of the Lord for setting his mind once again not on God’s interests, but man’s: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me;” He had just told his disciples that he must be killed so that he could be raised on the third day. Peter’s inability to grasp this necessity, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you” was a hindrance to the Father’s eternal purpose in his Son. Peter, too, must let go. And our Lord’s affirmation is testimony that he did: Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep.” John 21:17b
Misdirected sincerity is misdirected nonetheless.
The masque of good intentions can be a greater hindrance to the purposes of God, then direct opposition. It purports to be God, but in reality is none of His. The Community of the Faithful is thus weakened - led astray - to the point that it succumbs when overt opposition comes against it. The blessing is forfeited, possibly (if that were possible... Matthew 24:24) never to be found again.
The Lord instructed John to commend the Church in Ephesus for many of its good deeds. Yet a dire warning immediately followed: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” And with it a foreboding commensurate result: “I am (italics added) coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place—unless you repent.” They had forfeited the person of Christ, the who he is, for the things of Christ, the what he is - and now when the I am comes it will be in judgement. “Ephesus itself now stands in the western portion of the Muslim land we call Turkey, which is almost Christian free.” History bears witness that her lamp stand was removed - the light went out. Will it burn bright once again? “Lord, only You know.”
An Old Testament parallel is the exchange of the blessing for the mess of pottage - the finite for the infinite, the temporal for the eternal. “Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.” Genesis 25:34 KJV Esau, the first born through whom the blessing was to come, forfeited his purpose never to regain it (Hebrews 12:14-17). Christ, the First Born from Eternity, will not succumb to this intention. He will fully accomplish all that is written of him in the volume of the book: “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’ ” Hebrews 10:7 NASB
Returning to his discourse with his disciples: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3 (NIV)
(In our next installment we will begin to unwrap previous connotations of this passage to reveal the true intent of our Savior’s transformational claim via its startling implications to the present condition.)