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John 20:16–18

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher)” (v. 16).

According to the accounts of the resurrection in the four Gospels, the disciples of Jesus were slow to recognize that He had risen from the dead on the third day. We can discern two main reasons for this. First, the disciples did not understand the Scriptures, which said that the Messiah must be raised from the dead. This was true before our Lord’s crucifixion (Matt. 16:21–23), and it remained true for a while after Jesus rose from the dead (Luke 24:13–27; John 20:8–9). Yet, the Old Testament tells us plainly that the Messiah would rise from the dead. Psalm 16:10, for example, says that God would not allow the Messiah to see corruption, to decompose in the grave. Isaiah 53:10–12 indicates that the Messiah would see the results of His work and be satisfied, enjoying the prolonging of His days. This is only possible if the Messiah is restored to life after His death, as predicted in Isaiah 53:1–9. Finally, 1 Chronicles 17:11–12 foresees that God would put one of David’s sons on the throne forever. Since the Messiah must also die, the only way to give Him an eternal kingdom is to raise Him from the dead.

Jesus’ disciples were slow to recognize that He rose from the dead also because there was some kind of change in His physical appearance after the resurrection. We do not know exactly what this change was, but both Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not realize they had seen Jesus face-to-face after His resurrection until He revealed Himself to them more clearly (Luke 24:13–35; John 20:14). Although the same body of Jesus that died was raised, something about His glorified body was different from His body before His death. His resurrected body is a spiritual body, not in that it is nonphysical but in that it is suffused by and transformed into incorruptible flesh by the Holy Spirit. We will be changed in like manner when our bodies are resurrected (1 Cor. 15:35–49).

Mary recognized Jesus only after He spoke to her (John 20:16). She then clung to Jesus, but He told her not to do so because He had not yet ascended to the Father (v. 17). Many fanciful interpretations have been suggested as to why Jesus forbade her to grasp Him, but we need not adopt any of them. Dr. R.C. Sproul, in his commentary John, notes that Jesus was telling Mary that He was not yet leaving to return to heaven. She was holding on to Him as if she would never see Him again, but she would see Him again before His departure. It was not yet time to say goodbye.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

We do not fully know what the changes in Jesus’ body were after His resurrection or what the changes to our bodies will be after our resurrection. We do know, however, that our flesh will become imperishable (1 Cor. 15:42). We will no longer be subject to the diseases and degeneration that we experience on this side of glory. We can have hope in the midst of our suffering now because we know that one day it will be no more.

For Further Study
  • Isaiah 25:6–8
  • Revelation 21:1–4

Mary Sees Jesus and the Angels

Joy and Strength

Keep Reading The Promised Messiah

From the December 2018 Issue
Dec 2018 Issue