The Risen Savior and the Mary Magdalenes

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for] am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God. John 20:17

Who in the church does not know Mary Magdalene? Who is not acquainted with her history as she stood near the empty tomb and as the Lord revealed Himself to her in His own peculiar manner? And who cannot understand her when she wanted to embrace the Lord‘s feet?

We all know her. Why? Because we know this history? Yes, but above all because we are so much like Mary.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus revealed Himself at least ten times after the resurrection. Each one of these manifestations was unique, each one revealing something special and different of the risen and victorious Lord of the church. ]n each case the setting was different, usually the people were different, and surely the purpose was to some extent different. To the Emmaus travelers He revealed that He had to suffer and die as Savior to fulfill the Scriptures. To the fisherman He showed that He was their risen Savior, who controlled all things, even the fish in the sea. There was also a definite purpose in this appearance to Mary Magdalene.

Mary was a woman. She appears to have been sentimental and affectionate. Add to this the fact that at one time she had been marvelously delivered from seven devils. Could she possibly forget this gracious work of Jesus? Never! Ever since, her life has been devoted to the Lord. She, with others, followed Him most of the time and cared for His earthly needs. That was her joy. It was her life to be with Jesus, to serve Him in love. If only she could see Him and hear His gracious voice! Possibly she didn’t understand too much of His teachings, surely not of the more profound “sermons.” But that didn’t matter too much, if only she could be with Him. Without this service and physical nearness she was lost.

This Mary now appeared at the empty tomb. A sad scene it was. She cried, literally, with unrestrained sobbing; she cried her heart out. The very sight of angels didn’t affect her. Her eyes even failed to recognize Jesus as He stood behind her. She continued crying. Although in heaven there was great joy, with millions of angels singing, here in the garden was great sadness! What a contrast!

Then came the moment when Jesus called her by name. There was only one word in response, “Rabboni.” Turning around and recognizing Him she wanted literally to hug His feet. But that she was strictly forbidden to do.

Why? What was Mary’s one big mistake? Hcr error was that she wanted a Jesus merely for Ihis life. At another time women were allowed to touch Him. That He is Savior for body and soul, for this life and for eternity she failed to see. Surely she was one of His own. But she didn‘t discern the spiritual things here. She saw only natural things. The meaning of the resurrection she did not yet see. She wanted a Savior whom she could touch and see. Didnt the two sisters of Bethany have the same conception of the Messiah? With them a Savior far away in Perea meant little when their brother was dying. He must be near them physically.

Often we are no different, are we? Don’t such thoughts appeal to us, a Savior literally near liS and with us? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if He would preach for us occasionally, speak over the radio and T.V. networks? A Savior for this life, to help us in our physical needs, is the kind of Savior in which all men are interested. One who can help us when we are in the hospital, who can deliver our dear ones from the power of death, who can solve our problems, and even give us bread or pay checks without our working for them. Wonderfull But what about our souls, our sins and the time when we must die? The Mary Magdalenes dont seem to think that far. They are Christians, but their faith is still mixed with misunderstanding and unbelief. Mary really wanted a Savior who would perpetuate this earthly existence. How she wept because the dead body, the corpse of her Master apparently was taken away! Unbelief never comes to the resurrection!!!

In His answer to her Jesus spoke about ascending to the Father. He was progressing. He would receive the Spirit and come back, and then with respect to His Godhead, majesty, grace and Spirit He would at no time and in no circumstances of life be absent from His people. As such a Savior He would be near and in the hearts and lives of those in need in China as well as in Africa, in the funeral home as well as in the hospital, He would strengthen covenant young people and protect them as the devil tried to seize them, and be with all who called upon Him and waged the battle of faith. Only as such a Savior would He be able to say, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” As a risen, heavenly Savior, He has the keys of death and hell.

Mary wanted to pull Him back, keep Him in this life. But no, He must progress, He must ascend. The work of the kingdom must be established, not by a Savior who is physically near a few of His own, but by One who through the Spirit and Word works and lives in the hearts and lives of all His children.

What kind of Savior we need. One who is at no time absent from us. One who is with us today, but also tomorrow, with us aud in us in times of joy, but also in times of sorrow, in trying times and when we one by one go through the valley of death. We may believe that in the Spirit, through the Word He is literally right next to us, with us, and in us. This is real! What a tremendous truth!

“Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father,” Jesus said to her. This implied that when He has ascended she might embrace Him, yes, that then she should do so.

That risen Savior, who today is Lord of Lords and King of Kings we should embrace. Dont our confessions give this beautiful description of faith, that we with faith embrace Him, like we embrace a dear one? In doing so we know that He is always with us, with His grace and majesty. What a promise! And He will never leave us.

How did the Lord make all this known to Mary? How did He make this plain to her? Not by His appearance, but by His voice. Likely this means that we, too, can receive and know Him as the spiritual, heavenly Savior, not by sight, but by the hearing of the Word. To Mary and the disciples the resurrection Gospel was brought by the Word. Sight confirmed it, but hearing made it known to them. Today we have only the hearing, which is sufficient. To those that are obedient to the Word He gives the Spirit of the risen Christ in their hearts.

Such people never die. The risen Savior is and always will be in and with them. How much more He was than what Mary sought! How much more He is and will be, than what we can imagine Him to be!

John Blankespoor is pastor of the Pine Creek Christian Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan.