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John 20:16-18

16. Jesus saith to her, Mary! She turned herself, and said to him, Rabboni! which means, Master! 17. Jesus saith to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God. 18. Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had said these things to her.

 

16. Jesus saith to her, Mary! That Christ allowed Mary, a short time, to fall into a mistake, was useful for confirming her faith; but now, by a single word, he corrects her mistake. He had formerly addressed her, but his discourse seemed to be that of an unknown person; he now assumes the character of the Master, and addresses his disciple by name, as we have formerly seen that

the good shepherd calleth to him by name every sheep of his flock,
(John 10:3.)

That voice of the shepherd, therefore, enters into Mary’s heart, opens her eyes, arouses all her senses, and affects her in such a manner, that she immediately surrenders herself to Christ.

Thus in Mary we have a lively image of our calling; for the only way in which we are admitted to the true knowledge of Christ is, when he first knows us, and then familiarly invites us to himself, not by that ordinary voice which sounds indiscriminately in the ears of all, but by that voice with which he especially calls the sheep which the Father hath given to him. Thus Paul says,

After that you have known God, or rather, after that you have been known by him,
(Galatians 4:9.)

And said to him, Rabboni! The efficacy of the address is evident from this circumstance, that Mary immediately renders to Christ the honor which is due to him; for the word Rabboni is not only respectful, but involves a profession of obedience. Mary therefore declares, that she is a disciple of Christ, and submits to him as her Master. This is a secret and wonderful change effected on the human understanding, when God, enlightening her by his Spirit, renders her clear-sighted, who formerly was slow of apprehension, and, indeed, altogether blind. Besides, the example of Mary ought to serve the purpose of exhortation, that all whom Christ invites to himself may reply to him without delay.

The word Rabboni is Chaldee, though the Chaldeans pronounce it Ribboni; but it is customary to make a change on words, when they are transferred to a foreign tongue. The meaning is the same as if we were to say, My Lord! or, My Master! But in the time of Christ this mode of expression had gained currency, of using Rabbi and Rabboni instead of Master.

17. Touch me not. This appears not to agree with the narrative of Matthew; for he expressly says, that the women held him By The Feet, and worshipped him, (Matthew 28:9.) Now, since he allowed himself to be touched by his disciples, what reason was there for forbidding Mary to touch him? The answer is easy, provided that we remember that the women were not repelled from touching Christ, till their eagerness to touch him had been carried to excess; for, so far as it was necessary for removing doubt, he unquestionably did not forbid them to touch him, but, perceiving that their attention was too much occupied with embracing his feet, he restrained and corrected that immoderate zeal. They fixed their attention on his bodily presence, and did not understand any other way of enjoying his society than by conversing with him on the earth. We ought, therefore, to conclude, that 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.

For I am not yet ascended to my Father. We ought to attend to this reason which he adds; for by these words he enjoins the women to restrain their feelings, until he be received into the heavenly glory. In short, he pointed out the design of his resurrection; not such as they had imagined it to be, that, after having returned to life, he should triumph in the world, but rather that, by his ascension to heaven, he should enter into the possession of the kingdom which had been promised to him, and, seated at the right hand of the Father, should govern the Church by the power of his Spirit. The meaning of the words therefore is, that his state of resurrection would not be full and complete, until he should sit down in heaven at the right hand of the Father; and, therefore, that the women did wrong in satisfying themselves with having nothing more than the half of his resurrection, and desiring to enjoy his presence in the world. This doctrine yields two advantages. The first is, that those who are desirous to succeed in seeking Christ must raise their minds upwards; and the second is, that all who endeavor to go to him must rid themselves of the earthly affections of the flesh, as Paul exhorts,

If ye then be risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God,
(Colossians 3:1.)

But go to my brethren. Some limit the word brethren to the cousins and relatives 199199     “Aux cousins et patens de Christ.” of Christ, but, in my opinion, improperly; for why should he have sent to them rather than to the disciples? They reply, Because John elsewhere testifies, that His Brethren did not believe in him. (John 7:5.)

But I do not think it probable that Christ conferred so great an honor on those who are there mentioned. It must also be admitted, that Mary Magdalene 200200     Marie Magdalene. fully obeyed the injunctions of Christ. Now, it immediately follows, that she went to the disciples; from which we conclude, that Christ had spoken of them. 201201     “Que Christ avoit parle de ses disciples et Apostres;” — “that Christ had spoken of his disciples and Apostles.”

Besides, Christ knew that the disciples, whom those men, by their opinion, treat as separated, were assembled in one place; and it would have been exceedingly absurd that he should pay attention to I know not what sort of persons, and disregard the disciples, who, having been collected into one place, were subjected to a violent conflict between hope and fear. To this it may be added, that Christ appears to have borrowed this expression from Psalm 22:22, where we and these words: I will declare thy name to my brethren; for it is beyond all controversy, that this passage contains the fulfillment of that prediction.

I conclude, therefore, that Mary was sent to the disciples in general; and I consider that this was done by way of reproach, because they had been so tardy and sluggish to believe. And, indeed, they deserve not only to have women for their teachers, but even oxen and asses; since the Son of God had been so long and laboriously employed in teaching, and yet they had made so little, or hardly any progress. Yet this is a mild and gentle chastisement, when Christ thus sends his disciples to the school of the women, that by their agency, he may bring them back to himself. Here we behold also the inconceivable kindness of Christ, in choosing and appointing women to be the witnesses of his resurrection to the Apostles; for the commission which is given to them is the only foundation of our salvation, and contains the chief point of heavenly wisdom.

It ought likewise to be observed, however, that this occurrence was extraordinary, and — we might almost say — accidental. They are commanded to make known to the Apostles what they afterwards, in the exercise of the office committed to them, proclaimed to the whole world. But, in executing this injunction, they do not act as if they had been Apostles; and, therefore, it is wrong to frame a law out of this injunction of Christ, and to allow women to perform the office of baptizing. Let us be satisfied with knowing that Christ displayed in them the boundless treasures of his grace, when he once appointed them to be the teachers of the Apostles, and yet did not intend that what was done by a singular privilege should be viewed as an example. This is peculiarly apparent in Mary Magdalene, who had formerly been possessed by seven devils, (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2;) for it amounted to this, that Christ had brought her out of the lowest hell, that he might raise her above heaven.

If it be objected, that there was no reason why Christ should prefer the women to the Apostles, since they were not less carnal and stupid, I reply, it does not belong to us, but to the Judge, to estimate the difference between the Apostles and the women. But I go farther, and say, that the Apostles deserved to be more severely censured, because they not only had been better instructed than all others, but, after having been appointed to be the teachers of the whole world, and after having been called the light of the world, (Matthew 5:14,) and the salt of the earth, (Matthew 5:13,) they so basely apostatized. Yet it pleased the Lord, by means of those weak and contemptible vessels, to give a display of his power.

I ascend to my Father. By using the word ascend he confirms the doctrine which I have lately explained; that he rose from the dead, not for the purpose of remaining any longer on the earth, but that he might enter into the heavenly life, and might thus draw believers to heaven along with him. In short, by this term he forbids the Apostles to fix their whole attention on his resurrection viewed simply in itself, but exhorts them to proceed farther, until they come to the spiritual kingdom, to the heavenly glory, to God himself. There is great emphasis, therefore, in this word ascend; for Christ stretches out his hand to his disciples that they may not seek their happiness anywhere else than in heaven;

for where our treasure is, there also must our heart be,
(Matthew 6:21.)

Now, Christ declares, that he ascends on high; and, therefore, we must ascend, if we do not wish to be separated from him.

When he adds, that he ascends To God, he quickly dispels the grief and anxiety which the Apostles might feel on account of his departure; for his meaning is, that he will always be present with his disciples by Divine power. True, the word ascend denotes the distance of places; but though Christ be absent in body, yet, as he is with God, his power, which is everywhere felt, plainly shows his spiritual presence; for why did he ascend to God, but in order that, being seated at God’s right hand, 202202     “A sa dextre glorieuse;” — “at his glorious right hand.” he might reign both in heaven and in earth? In short, by this expression he intended to impress on the minds of his disciples the Divine power of his kingdom, that they might not be grieved on account of his bodily absence.

To my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God. The benefit and efficacy of that brotherly union, which has been lately mentioned, is expressed, when Christ declares that we have this in common with himself, that he who is his God and his Father is also our God and our Father. I ascend, says he, to my Father, who is also your Father. In other passages we learn that we are made partakers of all the blessings of Christ; but this is the foundation of the privilege, that he imparts to us the very fountain of blessings. It is, unquestionably, an invaluable blessing, that believers can safely and firmly believe, that He who is the God of Christ is their God, and that He who is the Father of Christ is their Father. Nor have we any reason to fear that this confidence will be charged with rashness, since it is founded on Christ, or that it will be proud boasting, since Christ himself has dictated it to us with his own mouth.

Christ calls Him his God, in so far as, by

taking upon him the form of a servant, he humbled himself,
(Philippians 2:7.)

This is, therefore, peculiar to his human nature, but is applied to his whole person, on account of the unity, because he is both God and Man. As to the second clause, in which he says that he ascends to his Father and our Father, 203203    Ou il dit qu’il monte a son Pere et nostre Pere.” there is also a diversity between him and us; for he is the Son of God by nature, while we are the sons of God only by adoption; but the grace which we obtain through him is so firmly established, that it cannot be shaken by any efforts of the devil, so as to hinder us from always calling him our Father, who hath adopted us through his Only-begotten Son.


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