Jesus says to Mary Magdalene: “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” (John 20:17) Then in just ten verses later, He says to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” (John 20:27)
Why did Jesus tell one person, “Touch me not” and another person “Touch me”? Was Jesus playing favorites? Did Jesus forget He told Mary Magdalene to touch Him not when she was willing to; yet He told Thomas to touch Him when Thomas was hesitant to do so? Was Jesus using a double standard? Was Jesus being wishy-washy when He said, “Don’t touch me” and then “Touch me.”
No, Jesus had good reasons for telling Mary, “Don’t touch me” and Thomas to “Touch me.” The context is entirely different.
Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Jesus after His resurrection. Because He was in the garden, she thought He was the gardener. She realized it was Jesus when He called her name. After all, she had heard it a lot of time. Jesus had been her friend and teacher. He had cast seven demons out of her. She was not one of the original twelve disciples, but she was a disciple and she supported His ministry financially. Whenever the women followers are mentioned, Mary Magdalene’s name is always mentioned first with the exception of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Seeing Jesus after His resurrection, Mary Magdalene did a natural thing. she reached out to touch Him; to cleave to Him. However, Jesus stopped her. He said, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet returned to my Father.”
Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the locked room after His resurrection. When the disciples told Thomas what had happened, Thomas did not believe. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later Thomas was in the house with the disciples when Jesus came and stood among them. Therefore, Jesus showed them evidence of His resurrection: the nail marks in His hands and the pierced hole in side. Jesus tells Thomas to touch Him; to put his finger in the nail prints in His hands and his hand in His side.
Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Jesus met Mary in the garden BEFORE He had returned to His Father. When He had the conversation with doubting Thomas in the upper room, it was AFTER He had returned to His Father and was back on earth for 40 days before ascending to His Father where He is today at the right hand of God.
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