Fifth in the Ascension Series
In the previous post we reflected on Christ’s words to Mary Magdalene not to “cling” to him, that is, to touch him in the sense of fastening or adhering to him.
She had been first to the grave, and in train were Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, another follower. (Mar 16:1) An angel told them to tell his disciples that he was not there but was risen. It would seem that initially, all of the women were afraid to obey the angel (Mar 16:8) but Mary Magdalene did so.
Peter and John ran to see and then returned to their homes or the place in Jerusalem where they resided, though it was in Galilee that they were told Jesus would meet with them. Mary Magdalene remained after they left, and was then privileged to see the Lord.
At first she did not recognize him but when he spoke her name, her eyes were opened. She naturally reached to touch him or fell at his feet to do so, and he said to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17)
In the last post we quoted John Walvoord (1910-2002), a former pastor and president of Dallas Theological Seminary, that touching the Lord was inappropriate. Because Christ’s glory was veiled, Mary Magdalene could not see that she was intruding in a holy realm, and doing so with a familiarity unsuited for this immense purity. After the Ascension, the veil was removed:
The ascension is important because it constitutes the second step in the exaltation of Christ which began at the time of His resurrection. When Christ rose from the dead, He assumed a resurrection body which was suited for glorification, even though for the time being the glory was veiled in order that He might minister to His disciples. When He ascended into heaven, however, this veil was taken away, and Christ resumed His rightful place of honor in heaven with the added glory of His victory over sin and death. The ascension, therefore, marked a new step in the exaltation of Christ as well as a new phase in His ministry. (Walvoord)
Christians can attest that today it is right and necessary to cling to the Lord, not physically, but with our full heart, soul and mind.
In expressing this idea, we may be inclined to envision Christ as a spirit only, and not a body. How could Christians everywhere cling to Him today, or you may prefer to say, Walk with Him, if He is not omnipresent?
Lutherans believe that the body of Christ is omnipresent but the Reformed position is that ‘Christ is omnipresent only in His deity and is local as far as His body is concerned.’ A 19th century Presbyterian theologian, Charles Hodge, wrote that ‘locality is an essential attribute of any body, as an omnipresent body loses the characteristics of a body.’
For this reason, Christ is presented in Scripture as bodily present in heaven now even though He is spiritually present everywhere. The locality of the body of Christ is essential not only to His present ministry on the throne in heaven but also confirms the reality of the ascension itself as a bodily ascension, His second coming to the earth in glory as a bodily return, and His bodily presence in the millennial earth. (Walvoord)
The disciple who ran ahead of Peter to the grave explains our expectation and hope:
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)