The Question Page of the March-April 1977 issue of Focus was devoted to an answer by the editor of the column to the question: “Why did the Lord Jesus caution Mary Magdalene not to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to His Father (John 20:17), yet, on subsequent occasions prior to His ascension, He allowed Himself to be held by the feet (Matthew 28:9) and even invited Thomas to thrust his hand into His side (John 20:27)?”

Since this was published, a brother from New Jersey has submitted papers by the late William Kelly and Alfred Mace which may shed some further light on this question and may be of interest to readers of Focus.

William Kelly (in Lectures on Matthew, published by Loizeaux Brothers):

“In John, where Mary recovers her beloved Lord, as she thinks, He says, ‘Touch Me not’. How comes it that here (Matthew 28:9), when the women came and held Him by the feet, our Lord does not forbid it? A totally different truth is set forth by these acts. The great hope of Israel was to have Christ in their midst. But to us the absence of Christ on high, while we go through our time of trial, is just as characteristic as His presence will be to them. John speaks fully of our Lord’s going away: another scene of glory entirely distinct from this world is brought out there. Hence the teaching implied is, as it were, You may have been looking as Jews for a scene where I shall be personally present; but instead of this, I tell you of My present place on high, and the many mansions that I go to prepare for you in My Father’s house. He reveals to them a heavenly hope totally distinct from His reigning over His people in this world: therefore in John the Lord says to Mary, ‘Touch Me not, for… I ascend,’ etc. But in Matthew we are shown Jesus rejected by Jerusalem, yet found in Galilee, even after His resurrection. Whatever His power and glory now, and the comfort and blessing to His own, He is still, as regards the Jews and Jerusalem, the rejected and despised Messiah. Hence it is that on this occasion He confirms the message of the angel, saying to the women, ‘Be not afraid: go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.”

Alfred Mace (In Christ Risen: To Whom He Appeared and Why):

“The Lord’s appearance to the devoted heart, Mary of Magdala: The Lord says to her, ‘Mary’. ‘Oh’, she says, ‘I must clasp you by the feet.’ ‘No’, He says, ‘You must never know Me in that way again’. He is going to conduct her into Christianity now. Grasping by the feet was Judaism. So we get in Hebrews 12:18: ‘Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched. Judaism appealed to the sight and the senses.

“He says, ‘You used to know Me here, to touch Me and handle Me. Now you are to know Me by faith and in the power of the Holy Ghost’. ‘Touch Me not for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say’, etc. What happened? Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He has spoken these things unto her. Emphasize that. She got them for herself from His own lips.

“Now, we cannot clasp the Lord Jesus Christ by the feet. He has gone out of this world. All the sacramental system of Christianity would drop if people saw that. He was on earth in Judaism and will be here in the millennial day, and they will touch Him then; but Christianity is this: Christ gone to glory. His Father, my Father, and His God, my God, and He calls all Christians brethren. You have an invisible system of things, not a material. We know Christ now by faith in the power of the Holy Ghost. What the Lord is doing here is, that He is leading that devoted woman out of Judaism. Clasping Him by the feet means ‘I must know you in the way I used to know you’. ‘No’, He said, ‘it is no longer that way’. Well, now, do you like spiritual Christianity?”

(Please send all questions to Dr. James T. Naismith, 1121 Hilltop Street, Peterborough, Ontario K9J 5S6)