John 20:17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
The scene here is very easy to picture, with Jesus hardly able to stand because Mary has wrapped her arms so tightly around His ankles. We can identify with such intense emotion, even if we’ve never felt it directly ourselves. What Jesus says to Mary is very interesting, and I think I will understand it fully only when I am before His throne in heaven. He tells her not to cling to Him “because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” To me, that says that after He has ascended, clinging to Him is OK! We can’t cling to Him physically any more than Mary could after the ascension, but spiritually we should never let Him go. We tend to “let go of Jesus” for all sorts of things: money, pleasure, prestige, what have you. However, every bit of that is a mistake, because all of that is temporal, passing, when Jesus is eternal. The other “blow your mind” thing Jesus said was “my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” Linguistically at least, Jesus was raising His disciples to His level. We really can’t wrap our minds around that, but it fits perfectly with something He had said in the upper room after His last supper, and something He said in the same location in the evening after His encounter with Mary. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21) Paul wasn’t present on those occasions, but he expressed this truth as, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) (Actually, Paul had a lot more to say about this, but it’s too much to quote here.) This also fits in with the logically impossible things Jesus said in His prayer just before He went to Gethsemane, about our being in Him as He is in the Father and the Father in us and all of that. (John 17) Perhaps the deepest joy of the life of faith is discovering by experience how all of this is indeed possible, even though human words can hardly explain it. We are not God, yet God raises us to His level in ways that we can hardly grasp, much less put into words. This is what being in Christ is all about.
Of course this applies to me, just as it does to every believer. It isn’t something we can grasp or achieve or even understand on our own, but God is incredibly gracious. My father wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Greek uses of “in Christ” and related expressions in the New Testament, but he told me personally, about two months before he left this earth, that he didn’t understand it until after he had a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit after he had arrived in Japan as a missionary. At the point he told me about it I was seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but hadn’t experienced it because of my confusion about spiritual gifts. That was in 1974, and in the 46 years since then I have learned more and more of what it is all about. I wish I walked in it more completely, more consistently, but I know that it is already an accomplished fact and I look forward to its fulfillment. There is no room whatsoever for pride, but it does require my participation in submitting my will to Him, and that is what I strive to do, for His glory alone.
Father, this is beyond words to express. Thank You for Your totally amazing grace. Thank You for this glorious Resurrection Sunday. The weather is rainy, COVID-19 is rampant, and all sorts of other things seem less than optimal. But You are God and Christ is risen and I am in Christ, and that is all that really matters. Thank You. Hallelujah!