Shared April 6th, 2015
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise, Luke 23:43and John 20:15-17 says, “15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 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.”
As we continue from Part 1, I ask you to feast your eyes intently on verse 17, which is what Jesus said on the morning of Resurrection Sunday: “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father:” That same evening the first day of the week the disciples were gathered together “behind closed doors” (the title of my Sermon this past Sunday) when Jesus appeared and a week later (the bible says eight days, counting or including the current day), He appeared again, this time with the absent Thomas present (the first day of the week, one of the reasons we worship on Sunday). Now, juxtapose verse 17 against Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. What about Luke 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
Conflicting? Contradictory? Did the thief go straight to paradise as the Master, Jesus Himself promised? If He had made such a promise to the dying thief, why would He tell Mary ‘don’t touch me I have not yet ascended’? We have seen that when Jesus told the reformed thief that he was going to be with Him, Jesus, in paradise, He Jesus meant that very day, not the following day or the day after, or some future time. That’s why Paul was able to boldly say “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Now check this out.
When Jesus told Mary “… don’t touch Me. I have not yet ascended to My Father,” we have to turn to the difference, which is in the Greek verb. This is where the King James Version (KJV) doesn’t help much. You see, Jesus was saying to Mary ‘don’t hang onto Me’ because Mary Magdalene was so broken up, so distraught when Jesus died hence upon seeing and recognizing that it was Jesus, she was clinging on to Him. It is obvious Mary did not want to lose Jesus again. It is also obvious that Mary did not understand the resurrection and may have thought this was the Second Coming. Recall John 14:3 where Jesus said “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Thus Jesus says, you can’t hang onto Me now because I have to ascend, go back to My Father. We also see a difference in Him saying reach out and touch Me to see that I’m real; but to Mary He said, don’t hang onto Me; I have to go back. So Jesus is saying to her ‘I’m back to prove to you I’m alive. I’m not back to stay so don’t hang onto Me. You have to release Me to go back to My Father. Okay?’ A difference in the Greek verb helps to clarify that.
Look at it this way: Jesus did not want to be detained or kept at the tomb or in the cemetery (if I can put it that way). And moreover if He did not go back then how was the Holy Spirit going to come? And, of course, both He and Mary had work to do: Mary to pass on the information to the disciples and Jesus to meet with them and to other witnesses, over 500 of them.
All this leads to another question. If Jesus died, was buried and rose after three days (there was a time when the skeptics took issue with Jesus’ “3 days and nights,” saying that it doesn’t add up, but that’s for another time) but then many days later He ascended to heaven, how could He have been in paradise with the thief that Friday?
Proposed prayer: “Dear Lord of Lords, Your Word is clear and accurate, and I am grateful that You always give us deep insights. Many of us have different beliefs that we adhere to but Lord, help us to take a stand for You in our beliefs that You were born of a virgin, was crucified on a cross, died, was buried but rose from the dead, just as You had said. For this I shout ‘Hallelujah and glory!’” Amen.