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A New Relationship and A New Testimony

John 20:18 (ESV) … “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.”

She may have embraced Him physically, for the Lord responded, Do not hold on to Me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to My brothers and tell them.… These words spoke of a new relationship, new relatives, and a new responsibility. Many wanted to “hold onto” Jesus. The KJV translation “Touch Me not,” has caused many interpreters to wonder why He could not be “touched.” The NIV translation is more accurate, for He certainly was not untouchable (cf. Matt. 28:9; John 20:27). Mary had lost Jesus once before (at His crucifixion) and it was natural to fear the loss of His presence again.

Jesus said, in effect, “This (the physical contact) is not My real presence for the church. A new relationship will begin with My Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church.” Jesus then explained the fact of the new relatives. He called His disciples His brothers. Earlier He had said they were friends: “I no longer call you servants … instead, I have called you friends” (15:15). Believers in Jesus become a part of Jesus’ family with God as their Father (cf. Heb. 2:11–12; Rom. 8:15–17, 29; Gal. 3:26). Mary’s new responsibility was to testify to His risen presence. She was the recipient of four special graces: to see angels; to see Jesus risen; to be the first to see Him alive; and to be a proclaimer of the good news. Christians today are also the recipients of special grace; they too are given this new responsibility to witness to the world (cf. Matt. 28:16–20).

Jesus’ words, I am returning to My Father indicate His unique sonship. Mary and the other women told the news to the disciples, but according to Luke, they did not believe her or the other women “because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11; cf. Luke 24:23).[1]

We are not told by John how the disciples received her testimony (cf. Mark 16:9–11). Thus Mary Magdalene, a woman, was the first to see the risen Christ, the first to hear his voice, the first to touch him, the first to be commissioned by him, and the first to tell the glad tidings to others.[2]

[1] Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 342–343). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. [2] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring the Gospel of John: An Expository Commentary (Jn 20:18). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

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