“Don’t cling to me.” Jesus said “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”
-John 20:17 New Living Translation
God is so great! I’ve been really struggling with some stuff. I still am. But in the middle of it I stand (o.k., actually I’m sitting) amazed by Him.
We talk about the Bible as the living word of the living God. One of the things that’s beginning to mean to me is this: its thousands of pages are not static and dead but they are ever growing and ever changing, leading me to be ever growing, ever changing.
I wonder how many times I’ve read the verse listed above. Suddenly it contains these truths that never sang to me before. Things that maybe I wasn’t ready to notice. They seem so obvious to me now.
I had struggled with the idea that Jesus tells Mary not to cling to him. It seemed kind of… mean. The fact that Jesus was assertive didn’t bother me. I love the story of him chasing the money changers out of the temple. It was the fact that Mary was expressing her devotion and Jesus was smashing this down that always got to me.
But tonight, I noticed three little letters. ‘f’ ‘o’ and ‘r’
The word “for.” It’s fascinating how that little word is so important.
If the word wasn’t there, then we’d have reason to think that Jesus snapped “Don’t cling to me” and then he moved on to the things He really wanted to say.
But the word “for” it’s pretty much like the word “because”; It connects the two sentences together. A different way to express the same sentiment “It’s not time to cling to me; I haven’t ascended to the father.” Jesus leaves this implication: When he has ascended, then it will be time to cling to him.
Kind of a crazy paradox: we’re only supposed to cling to him when he is no longer bodily with us!
Three more little letters: ‘b’ ‘u’ ‘t’. The word ‘but’ obviously means “instead” or “this is what you need to do”… It’s as if Jesus is saying “Time is short… I’ll be leaving soon, that will be the time for clinging. But before I go, there is some important stuff that has to happen.”
There is this transformation that the disciples undergo. They are still acting like knuckleheads during the crucifiction. Somehow, though, they are supercharged as they go out and start the church. (in Acts) This supercharging happened then: after Jesus rose from the grave, before he ascended.
The later half of the verse is even more amazing to me. Jesus is explaining the importance of what he has accomplished. Through his outpouring of love, through his great sacrifice, he has somehow elevated us. There is some sense in which we are now on his level. Though he alluded to this as he washed the disciples feet, this reality shines through the verse. Jesus doesn’t describe the disciples as Mary’s brothers; he describes them as his own brothers. He does not describe God as only his God. He does not describe God as only the disciples God. He does not assert that God is only his own father. He does not assert that God is only the disciples father.
The risen Christ says that the disciples are his brothers. He proclaims the God of the disciples is also his God. He affirms that his own father is the father of the disciples. He sends Mary to tell everyone that we are family with Jesus.
Maybe folks who have been at this for a longer time than me noticed this before. But I pray that it doesn’t become a given, that none of us ever fail to be struck by the awesomeness of this.