Clingy Women?

Today I am pleased to share an article my friend Anna Anderson wrote about a passage that stumps her every year. I'm happy to introduce you to another housewife theologian. Dare a housewife theologian differ with the biggies?   Yeah, like Calvin and Spurgeon. Every Easter I come to John’s account of the resurrection. It goes well for me until verse 17. Suddenly I stop and can’t go forward. I gun the engine, but it only sinks me deeper. Why is Mary Magdalene, as she receives the grace of first beholding the risen Lord, forbidden to cling to Jesus?  As this Easter came and went without any progress, I decided I wouldn’t give up easily. And so here I am ten days later, still trying to make sense of John 20:17. Most commentators see a rebuke in Jesus’s words to Mary: “Me mou haptou” (Don’t cling to me).Spurgeon’s sermon title comes from the Latin, Noli me tangere .  Although he commends Mary because she must find Jesus, whereas the disciples leave the empty tomb, he sees her affections as fleshly. Calvin in his commentary is less complimentary. He says of Mary’s tarrying at the tomb, “... the women torment themselves by idle and useless weeping. In short, it is superstition alone, accompanied by carnal feelings, that keep them near the sepulcher." Concerning Mary's clinging, Calvin concludes, "they were not forbidden to touch him, until Christ saw that, by their foolish and unreasonable desire, they wished to keep him in the world." He ends with the warning that “all who endeavor to go to Him must rid themselves of the earthly affections of the flesh.” Calvin and Spurgeon leave me wondering and doubting my affections for Christ. More specifically, I ask myself, “How can I possibly know the difference between my spiritual and ‘fleshly’ affections for Jesus?” How could embracing Christ in joy as one come back from the dead, celebrating the renewal of hope found in Him, be dismissed as "carnal and fleshly?" Before us is a woman responding to Him with a relief and utter joy that defy expression in any other way than falling on Him. Is He not pleased? I don't think that Jesus Christ revealed Himself to Mary only to critique and censure her worship. Our worship on earth is through the elements belonging to His earth ---- we eat and drink in our communion with Him and we make music to the praise of His glorious grace. Our hearts burn and our eyes tear when we behold Him in His word as theology moves us to doxology. Yes, we cannot touch, yet only because He is not yet tangibly present with us. However, we are not forbidden to taste and see His goodness in His Word and rejoice in His risen presence with all of our might --- yes, even us women. I believe that the key to Jesus’ injunction is found in what Jesus Himself says: “I have not yet ascended.” In the Gospels, Jesus is often found touched and touching --- the feeble and sick touched Him or received His touch to be healed (Matt. 8:3,15; 9:21, 29; 14:36; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 3:10;  5:28; 6:56; 7:33; 8:22-25; Luke 5:13; 6:19; 22:51; 24:3); His disciples were calmed and comforted by touch (Matt. 14:31; 17:7; John 13:23-25); He blessed the children with touch (Matt. 19: 13-15; Mark 10:13; Luke 18:15); kissing appears the normal and familiar greeting of the disciples (Matt. 26:49), How interesting that Christ rebukes Simon the Pharisee for not kissing Him in the same passage that He commends the kisses of the woman who anointed His feet in Luke 7:36-50. And yes, after the resurrection there were no new rules of propriety --- the disciples, as the women, worshipped the risen Lord with touch (Matt. 28:9). At the Last Supper touching abounded (His disciples reclined with Him, even leaning on Him; He washed their feet; they shared His cup). He tells them that He will come to receive them unto Himself (John 14:3). The first time this word paralambanō is used in the NT is in Matthew 1:20, when Joseph is told by the angel not to fear to receive Mary as His wife. This receiving unto Himself is pointing to something not different, but surpassing the communion they enjoyed with Christ at this last meal on earth. I do not see rebuke for carnality and prohibition in “Me mou haptou.” Instead I see Jesus preparing Mary for His ascension, commissioning her to the clinging of faith necessitated by His upcoming departure. Enabled by His Spirit, she would do that until the day dawned when He would receive her unto Himself. She would pass behind the veil of this world to something far surpassing all that our word “clinging,” the Greek word haptou, and the Latin word tangere entail. Today, we rest in His bosom by faith; we touch His hem in sickness by faith; we are saved by His arms in the storms by faith, we anoint Him with our tears of repentance by faith. By faith, we bring our children to Him so that He might touch them and bless them. We cling to our Lord by faith unto the clinging by sight. At least may it be said of Mary that today she clings to Him? Yes, I too am clinging --- to the Gardener of my soul outside the tomb, to Someone who will receive me to Himself, a Man who says to you and to me today, “Come unto me.” Anna Anderson is a housewife theologian from Greencastle, PA. She and her family attend Hope Reformed Presbyterian Church in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania​