Resurrection Sunday: Principal Easter Service, Year A

Do Not Hold on to Me

Hallelujah, Christ is risen. The Lord has risen indeed. Hallelujah!

Today we read about the first resurrection appearance that Jesus made which is unique to the Gospel of John. Mary Magdalene was heartbroken. She had gone to the tomb on the morning of the first day of the week and discovered that the body of Jesus was not there. When those who accompanied her had departed the scene she was left there standing alone. It is then that she has this encounter with the risen Lord. We read:

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).   (John 20:11-16)

Mary Magdalene is the first witness to the resurrection. She knew Jesus as a teacher, deliverer, and friend. Jesus had, in fact, cast out seven demons from her. She was a sinner, someone with whom everyone of us can identify. Nonetheless, she was there at the cross when most of his followers had deserted him.

Jesus had an on going ministry with Mary, but the nature of that ministry was suddenly changing. Jesus said something very curious to Mary:

“Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

“Do not hold on to me.” What could this mean? Naturally Mary wanted to touch Jesus. He was dead and now he was alive. She must have been overcome by joy! Jesus was telling her, however, that her relationship with him was changing.

We need to understand that the work which Jesus began on the cross for our sake is ongoing even to this day. His death paid the price for our sins and opened for us the gateway to heaven. The psalmist wrote

Open for me the gates of righteousness;
I will enter them;
I will offer thanks to the Lord.

“This is the gate of the Lord;
he who is righteous may enter.”   (Psalm 118:19-20)

The moment that Jesus died the curtain in the Temple which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was torn from top to bottom. The way to God the Father was now established. This did not end Jesus’s ministry, however. Jesus told Mary Madeleine that he had to descend to his Father. His purpose was to present his followers to the Father before his throne of grace. Jesus, alone, can present us spotless before the Father.

Is Jesus telling us today, as he did Mary, not to hold on to him as we currently know him? We must not to limit his ministry in our lives. His ministry to us must be ongoing. He sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts, to direct us and rule us according to the will of the Father. He comforts us in all our afflictions. (The Christian faith will not eliminate all our tests and trials.) He is also our great high priest. He lives to ever make intercession for us. If we are attentive to our risen Lord he defends us from all error and leads us into all truth.

The Apostle Paul writes:

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.   (Colossians 3:1-4)

Yes, the cross has opened for us the way of eternal life. We must walk in that way, and that way is Jesus. Jesus is our friend and our deliverer. But he is much more than that. No one can go to the Father except through him. He will return to judge the quick and the dead, and his kingdom shall have no end.

Our response to his great love is to say yes. And like Mary Magdalene, Jesus tells us to go and tell others what we have experienced.

Hallelujah, Christ is risen. The Lord has risen indeed. Hallelujah!

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Filed under Easter, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Resurrection Sunday, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A

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