Why did Jesus ask THOMAS to TOUCH Him after His RESURRECTION when He did NOT permit MARY Magdalene to do so? (See John 20:17, 27)
WHY DID JESUS ASK THOMAS TO TOUCH HIM AFTER HIS RESURRECTION WHEN HE DID NOT PERMIT MARY MAGDALENE TO DO SO? (SEE JOHN 20:17, 27)
Let us first read both the passages as recorded by John in Chapter 20:
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre... Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I 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... Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them,
Peace be unto you... And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them; then came
Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 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 20:1, 17, 19, 26, 27)
Yes, Thomas and Mary met Jesus. Mary met Him on the resurrection morning and Thomas after eight days. Mary was not permitted to touch Jesus because the Lord wanted to first meet His Father. Jesus said, "I am not yet ascended to my Father". But
Thomas was permitted, and in fact was asked to do so, by Jesus. So this should mean that Jesus already ascended to the Father and was now back, as that was the reason for Him in forbidding Mary.
ONE MIGHT SAY: But didn't Jesus ascend to Heaven only after forty days according to Acts Chapter 1?
Let us read those verses.
To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of
God... And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel. (Acts1:3, 9, 10)
Here it does not say that Jesus ascended to Heaven only after forty days after His resurrection, it just says that his disciples and many others witnessed the ascension on the fortieth day. So, did
Jesus ascend to His Father before the grand public ascension on the fortieth day? Yes, very much yes!
Look carefully at what He told Mary in the passage on that resurrection morning:
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I 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)
The phrase- "I am not yet ascended", means He would soon do so.
Notice now the tense of the phrase-"I ascend unto my Father".
Which tense is it-present tense or future tense? He did not say-"I will ascend", but said, "I ascend". If He was referring to an act that would take place only forty days later, then He should have said-
"I will ascend". But the very fact that he used the present tense, "I ascend", shows that the act was about to take place.
And what message did He want Mary to share with the rest? He said:
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 20:7)
Let me ask you a question. If Jesus was referring to the fortieth day ascension here, what was the urgency for Mary to convey this message to the rest? Wouldn't they all witness that event? And that event was forty days still in the future! Before that hundreds of people would see Him and associate with Him (See 1 Corinthians 15:4-6).
Jesus knew that the "brethren" would come to see their resurrected
Lord. And when they would come, He would not be there.
In fact this was Mary Magdalene's second visit. During her first visit, she saw the empty tomb and supposed that Jesus' body was robbed, and reported it to Peter and the rest. Peter and John came running to the tomb and found it empty with the grave clothes wrapped together meticulously. They went back disappointed to their home (See John 21:1-18).
Mary Magdalene was still there by the sepulcher weeping, and
Jesus made His appearance, His first appearance, after resurrection.
What a privilege for Mary! And it is at this point He told Mary not to touch Him, as He was yet to ascend to Heaven. Jesus would first want His beloved Father to touch Him with His embrace of love and acceptance, and hear the approval that His sacrifice was accepted and perfectly fulfilled as planned! After that being done He would spend forty days with His most precious treasures-His disciples- strengthening them and comforting them and teaching them and loving them.
The message of Mary was important. They might otherwise have wondered where their triumphant Lord went. If He was risen- they would have thought- they should be the ones to see Him first, and not others. Yes, they were right in their reasoning. So
He wanted them to know that He would not go anywhere else or to anyone else on earth; it was only to His beloved Father, who loved the world He would make a dashing visit and be back. And that was perfectly acceptable to all and comforting too.
That same day He was back. How long does it take for God to travel through space anyway? Split seconds at the most! After spending some time with the Father and the family of Heaven, Lo!
He was back where His heart was, with His sheep that He had purchased with His blood! And that evening, when the disciples had gathered together, He appeared to them but Thomas was not around. After eight days He appeared to them when all were around, even Thomas. And it is here that He told 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)
So it was not the same day that He made the two statements, there was an eight-day gap. But the same day after He met Mary
Magdalene, He permitted some of His disciples to touch Him (See Matthew 28:5-10), as He already ascended to Heaven in the intervening period, as we have just seen. And on the fortieth day, He publicly ascended to Heaven, with all His disciples and loved ones gazing, into the skies, as He went up!