Mary Magdalene had been through an intensely emotional few days. She had become one of the most devoted followers of Jesus during his earthly ministry. She didn’t abandon him at the cross as the remaining 11 disciples had. She witnessed his torture and death. Then she was bold enough to come back to his burial site and care for his body. She was clearly heartbroken by the radical turn of events that had taken place during those past 3 days. It must have felt like a whirlwind. Now, to make matters worse, these people who had put Jesus to death had apparently stolen his body as well! She was devastated. Her eyes were covered in tears, so it is no wonder that she mistook the risen Jesus for a gardener when he playfully asked her “Who is it you are looking for?”
It wasn’t until he spoke her name that she recognized that voice. It was a voice that must have made her soul leap and most likely in her joy she rubbed her eyes and ran to her savior. Our text doesn’t tell us that she wrapped her arms around him, but why else would Jesus’ next words be, “Do not hold on to me”? I’m guessing that she was holding on to Jesus tighter than she ever had.
But that begs the question, why does Jesus tell her that she can’t hold on to him? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Aren’t we supposed to “hold on to Jesus,” especially in hard times? Wouldn’t it be great to feel his warm embrace on days like these? But like Mary, we can’t hold on to him… at least not the way that we want to. The way that we would hold on to Jesus if we were in control is to make him our own. We wouldn’t share him, we would keep him to ourselves and never let go. This is why it is good that none of us are in control and Jesus is. In fact, the very reason Jesus gives, “I have not ascended to the Father,” is another way of saying, “I am going to take my seat of authority.” He’s saying that he needs to be in a place where he can lead us. I’m glad that he does that, because the next thing he does is give Mary her mission,“Go …” This is what he is saying to us. We can’t hold on, instead we must let go and then go.
Live the Story: What is it that you hold on to? What do you need to let go of today so that you can go into all that Jesus is calling you to?
By Josh Rose
Adult Ministries Pastor