By David E. Prince
“Jesus saith unto Mary, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.”—John 20:17.
“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.”—John 20:27.
It is manifest, from these and other passages, that the reason why Mary was forbidden to touch her risen Saviour was not because the thing itself was impossible. Indeed, if it had been so, the prohibition had been unnecessary; for we need not be forbidden to do that which cannot be done. There might, however, be an impropriety in her using the same freedoms with him in his immortal state as she had been wont to do in his mortal state. It might be proper to touch him at his own invitation, and so to answer an important end, (see Luke 24:39,) and yet improper to do so without it. By comparing the passage with Matt. 28:9, 10, it appears that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who was with her did touch him; for they are said to have “held him by the feet, and worshipped him.” There is reason to think, therefore, that the words, “Touch me not,” in John, were used merely to induce her to desist from what she was doing; and that on account of his having more important employment for her—“Go, tell my brethren!” This agrees with the reason given in John—“Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father,” &c. This was as much as if he had said, You need not be so unwilling to let go my feet, as though you should see me no more: I am not yet ascended, nor shall I ascend at present. Yet do not imagine that I am raised to a mere mortal life, or am going to set up a temporal kingdom in this world.… No.… “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and unto my God, and your God.”
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 667–684). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.
David E. Prince is assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This article originally appeared on his blog, Prince on Preaching.