Today is Easter. I learnt something new.
I am of course aware of the various accounts of how the disciples, or rather, at first, some female followers of Jesus find the empty tomb on the first Easter morning.
This morning I heard someone talking on the radio about the version according to the Gospel of John. For some reason, what I remembered prior to that was that Jesus, once Mary recognises him, says to her: “Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father”. (John 20:17)
And that’s how it’s written in an older Bible I have, based on the King James translation.
That always struck me as a bit odd. Not Jesus-like at all.
It turns out that most newer translations say something slightly different, with huge consequences in perception. They are, e.g.: “Do not hold me”, “Do not hold on to me”, “Do not cling to me”.
The transliteration from the Greek in my interlinear translation of the New Testament says: “Is saying to her Jesus Not of me be touching, not yet for I have ascended toward the Father.” Even this version has as “proper” translation of this verse: “Jesus said to her: ‘Stop clinging to me. For I have not yet ascended to the Father.'”
The speaker on the radio also used a “Do not cling to me” version. Which implies that Mary was not just touching him, but clinging to him, probably as intensely as she possibly could, as if she’d never let go of him again. This is a much more likely scenario.
And much more befitting Jesus, the God of Love. Jesus, who allowed the children to come to him when the disciples wanted to shoo them away. Jesus, who talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, when talking to a Samaritan, and a woman (known to have had five “husbands”) was scandalous for a man, especially a religious teacher. Jesus who healed lepers. Who healed a blind man on a Sabbath. And so on.
Such a Jesus wouldn’t say to someone, overjoyed to see him alive, “don’t touch me”, as if he were a Pharisee trying to avoid a leper.
The speaker went on to say that in this moment paradise is restored. Mary thought at first she was talking to the gardener. The “gardener” (as in: the Garden of Eden) then names her: “Mary!” I have long thought that this moment, this calling of Mary by name, is one of the most intimate and deep expressions of love in all the Bible.
And now, this moment has been enhanced for me by the image of an intense embrace.
However, Jesus does have one more task to do. He has to ascend to heaven and from there to send the Holy Spirit. In this world, we cannot hold on to his (or anyone’s . . .) physical appearance forever, as much as we would like to. We need to receive the Holy Spirit and fulfil his command to love one another. That way, we recreate the body of Christ on earth, the Church, which is eternal.