#ThrowBackThursday This blog was first posted on April 21, 2014.
“Don’t cling to me!” This feels like a strange remark coming from Jesus. It sounds more like something a mom would say to her kids when they have been wrapped around her legs sticking to her like a sheet of fabric softener. It also sounds a lot like something kids say to each other. “Stop touching me!”
This seemingly odd statement becomes even more strange when we consider when and who Jesus said it to. “Don’t cling to me!” Jesus told Mary Magdalene after she recognized Jesus for the first time, when she thought Him to be dead. Mary mistook Him for a gardener and asked Jesus if He might know where they had taken the body of her Savior. But when Jesus said her name, she immediately recognized Him.
Grieving and confused as to why the tomb would be empty, Mary’s response seemed normal. If I thought someone was dead and now believed the beloved person was standing very much alive in front of me, I would throw my arms around them and hold on with every ounce of my being. Cling to the person with all my might, maybe out of disbelief, maybe as a release, maybe because I don’t want to let them go, but I think the desire to cling to that person would be a natural response.
Why did Jesus tell her, “Do not cling to me, do not touch me…”?
Even stranger is the reason He gave her to not hold on to Him. Jesus told her, “because I have not yet ascended to the Father” John 20:17. What kind of reason is that? It insinuates how it would be okay for her to hold on to Him, after He is gone? How is that possible? What is Jesus saying?
The author captured this moment for a reason, what was it? The only other time John used the Greek word haptomai, is in 1 John 5:18. Haptomai means to fasten oneself to or adhere to or cling to. “We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely and the evil one cannot touch(haptomai) them” (1 John 5:18, NLT).
If Mary was not to fasten herself to Jesus until after He was gone, this transitions a literal meaning of touching and clinging to someone to a figurative sense and is applicable to us today. We are to apply a spiritual type of fastening ourselves or clinging to Jesus Christ.
Cling is similar to another word John liked to use “abide.” “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:5, NRSV. Abide means to stay with or be continually present with. Abide has a type of clinging ring to it.
If we cling to Jesus, spiritually speaking, in a sense it could be seen as abiding. Abiding is huge to our success as followers of Christ, according to John 15. Back to 1 John’s use of the word “cling,” we can see how Jesus holds on to us and the evil one cannot fasten himself or adhere to or cling to us!
The Amplified says it this way, “[Christ’s divine presence within him preserves him against the evil], and the wicked one does not lay hold (get a grip) on him or touch [him].”
I don’t know about you, but I am all for the evil one NOT getting a grip on me!
“Don’t cling to me!”
Jesus is helping prepare Mary for a time when she like us would not have a physical Jesus to cling to and we like Mary need to learn to cling to Christ, the risen One in such a way our clinging to Him the evil one cannot cling to us.
“Don’t cling to me!” is a profound post resurrection message. One representative of a lifestyle for anyone calling them self a Christ follower. Unlike Mary in that moment, we are now free to cling to Christ with all our might.
Cling on! Cling to Christ! Cling to Him like a butterfly to a flower, like your life depends on it…because it does!
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