Q: “Why did Jesus tell Mary Magdalene in John 20:16-17 not to touch Him after He had risen from the dead?”
A: This question has no doubt been asked by many people because Thomas was told by Jesus to touch His wounds in John 20:27. Many people have probably pondered this incident because Jesus was seen by many, and supped with some and no doubt had some physical brushes or touches along the way. From the research, there seems to be the possibility of a couple of answers to it.
One of the answers is that this incident occurred not long after His resurrection in His new glorified body and it was the Lord’s way of telling Mary that He was operating in a different realm, a spiritual one where any intimacy between them must be on a different level. He reminded her that He had not ascended to the Father. This possibly was to remind her that in time, she would not see Him at all; therefore, it was time for her to walk according to faith in what she knew was true and not by what she could see or touch.
The other answer is that Mary wanted to cling to Jesus. Remember, she had gone through the terrible ordeal of losing Him once, and now that He was risen, she wanted to hold onto Him and not let Him go. Jesus came to complete His mission and needed to be about the Father’s business and could not allow Himself to be detained. We know that for forty days He would appear to many different people. In fact, the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6 stated that Jesus was seen by over 500.
The concept of Mary having to physically “let go” of Him also points to faith that not only believes and receives a matter, but allows one to let go of the fleshly in order to ensure spiritual advancement. Mary could not physically hold onto Christ and move forward, and she had to, by faith, believe what He said, receive it as truth, and trust that by letting go, greater life and blessings were yet to be discovered and possessed.
Once again, we may be guessing the reason behind what Jesus said to this devoted woman and we may be close, right, or missing it, but I do know one thing, by Mary not clinging to Jesus, He went about the business of the Father and what did she do?
We are told in John 20:18 that Mary came to the disciples and told them that she had spoken to the Lord and that he had spoken these things to her, probably which served to remind her that He had told them about His death, burial, and resurrection. It was not time for inaction on either Jesus’ or Mary’s part. Mary became the first evangelist to proclaim Jesus’ had risen and in doing so she was the one who prepared the disciples to see, believe, and receive Jesus in their midst.
It is a natural tendency to hold onto what is fleshly and familiar to us, but when it comes to Jesus, our walk with Him will take us into the unfamiliar territory to prepare us for something that is new. It is for this reason we must not cling to the old, be willing to let go of what was associated with the fleshly, and be prepared to walk by faith in the unknown towards what our Lord has promised us.