John 20:17-19a
“I Have Seen The Lord!”
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

When Lazarus rose, he went back to his lifestyle as before. This would not be the case with Jesus. He gave Mary detailed instructions regarding how she was to convey the news of His Resurrection and what would follow. She was to give precise information.

John 20:17a “Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus told her, . . .”

When Mary grabbed hold of Jesus, she was holding on for dear life, as if she intended never to let go, but He told her she must release Him. Jesus told her three reasons why He wanted her to stop clinging to Him.

John 20:17b “. . . for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”

One, there was no need for her to clutch Him. Jesus was not leaving immediately. She was evidently clutching Him in a way to indicate she feared He might go away now. She did not want to lose Him again.

John 20:17c “But go to My brothers . . .”

Two, someone needed to go tell the good news. “Mary, I have comforted you. Now you must go comfort others. Do not monopolize Me. Think of the disciples.” The Apostles were also hurting and weeping. Jesus, wanting their pain removed quickly, urged Mary to share the good news as quickly as possible.

Mary wanted this embrace never to end. She hoped this moment would go on forever. She was feeling what Peter, James, and John had felt on the Mount of Transfiguration. They wanted to stay on the mountaintop with Jesus; Mary wanted to stay in the Garden with Him.

Jesus is Lord and worthy of worship, but is to be shared as well as adored. Do not clutch Jesus selfishly. Share the good news. “This is a day of glad tidings. Go, Mary, go. Let others share in your joy.”

John 20:17d “. . . and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father – to My God and your God.”

Three, Mary was clinging to something she would have to give up before too long. Jesus had not ascended yet, but would. He will stay with the disciples only long enough to demonstrate the reality of His resurrection, and to prepare them for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

A new era was dawning. Jesus’ followers, hitherto addicted to His bodily presence, would henceforth have to emphasize the spiritual.

The disciples would have to start thinking in terms of a spiritual Lord. They must not remain too attached to His physical body, for it will leave soon. They will have to learn to function without His physical presence.

By emphasizing the spiritual, Jesus was also trying to avoid stirring up the disciples’ political views of Messiahship. He wanted them to know He had not returned from the grave to establish an earthly kingdom. Jesus rose from the dead, not to enter politics, but to enter Heaven.

Jesus’ Resurrection was not an end, but a beginning, a step toward His throne. Be glad Jesus went to Heaven. It means we’re also going there. Baxter said, “I would wish this text written on my dying bed; I would wish to view it with my closing eyes.”

Believers are reckoned as sharing in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (RM 6). A great joy of sharing in His Resurrection is, it is a step toward Heaven.

The Resurrection would have been incomplete without the ascension. Better to stay in the grave than to be resurrected to live forever in this sorrowful world. We do not want to rise from the grave merely to stand next to it. Surely none of us desires to come back someday and sit on our own tombstone.

We want to rise on up into Heaven. We don’t want to stop until we are surrounded by the Glory itself. We want to be Heaven bound. Earth is not our home. Our Father and Elder Brother are in Heaven, and their home is our home.

For Jesus, the purchase of redemption was done. It was now time for Him to carry on in Heaven till the last harvest finally arrived.

We believers must learn to lift our thoughts and affections upward, to find our highest joy in not the physical and earthly, but in the spiritual and heavenly. Do not try to make Earth your Heaven. Our true home is where Jesus is. Our thoughts should rise up to Heaven now, even as someday our spirits and bodies shall.

Assurance of our being Heaven bound is the meaning of Jesus’ phrase to Mary here, “My Father and your Father; My God and your God.” The God of the Redeemer is also God of the redeemed. The Father is Jesus’ God, and ours too. He is Jesus’ by Nature, ours by adoption. What belongs to Jesus belongs to us. Therefore, we share in Jesus’ spiritual and Heavenly life.

Be glad Jesus did not remain on Earth. We admit there are times we would like to see Him and touch Him, but we need to be satisfied to be a believer rather than a sight-seer because we have this blessed assurance that someday we will rise up to Heaven to be with Him forever.

John 20:18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what He had said to her.

Mary did not want to let go of Jesus, but to her, He was the Master. By obeying immediately and totally, she became the Apostle to the Apostles.

Her message contained the essence of Christianity. “The Lord Jesus is alive! I thought the tomb was robbed. I was wrong. He’s not stolen. He is risen!”

This is the last time Mary is mentioned in Scripture. How appropriate! This was her highest glory: she was the first to see the resurrected Lord, first to hear the resurrected Lord, first to converse with the resurrected Lord, first to hold the resurrected Lord, and first to carry the good news of the resurrected Lord. Nothing better was left to say about her life.

The disciples did not believe Mary (LK 24:11). The news was too good to be true, but her message, along with what others were saying, caused enough of a stir among Jesus’ disciples to bring most of them together in one place at one time. This gathering set the stage for Jesus’ preeminent Resurrection Day appearance.

John 20:19a In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews.

There were too many rumors and too much excitement for the disciples to stay apart. Electricity was in the air. The early morning events had created a furor. Jerusalem was in an uproar over the missing body of Jesus.

Roman soldiers had been seen running into town in dismay. The chief priests and elders had bribed soldiers with hush money to cover up the truth. The city was abuzz. God used all this suspense to pull His disciples to one place.

Gathering in one place made them easier to be arrested. They were brave to be together, but their courage was not absolute. They were still afraid, fearing the worst, and hiding behind locked doors for safety’s sake.

The ones who crucified Jesus might want to punish His followers too. The disciples knew they could be the next victims of an unjust mob. Possibly clustered in little groups in the room, they were eagerly discussing what had happened, re-hashing every bit of news they had heard.

They were probably tiring of John and Mary repeatedly saying, “He is alive! He is alive!” Suddenly, all chattering stopped. Silence blanketed the room. Jesus arrived.

The doors evidently remained shut, thereby pointing to a miraculous entrance. Jesus’ resurrected body was amazing. Death could not hold it, doors could not stop it, gravity could not detain it.

On the basis of this, some say Jesus rose from the dead spiritually, not physically. We reject any such notion. The body that died rose. Jesus never had been bound by the physical laws of earthly existence. Even before the crucifixion, He walked on water, yet had a true physical body.

We believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, knowing His body did undergo some type of change through death. The corruptible had been swallowed up in incorruption, the mortal put on immortality. His resurrected body included the physical, yet transcended it. Someday the same will happen to us (PH 3:21).