Noli Me Tangere
John 20:17-18
Jesus said to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brothers, and say to them, I ascend to my Father…

Mary Magdalene, because she loved much, had this morning divers favours vouchsafed her. Now comes an unkind word and mars all. A cold salutation for an Easterday morning. A little before He asked why she wept? This is enough to set her on weeping afresh. For if she wept that others had taken away her Lord, much more now when her Lord takes away Himself. Christ came unknown, and then known; but, unknown, Christ proves better to her, for then He asked her kindly why she wept? but known, He grows strange to forbid her to touch.


1. The thing forbidden. It is nothing to touch; and yet to touch Christ is not nothing. Many strove to touch Him, and there went virtue from Him even while He was mortal: but now He is immortal much more. That was not her case to draw ought from Him: it was for pure love. To love it is not enough to hear, or see; but to touch and take hold. The nearest union is per contactum.

2. The party. Not Christ. Why not Him? Christ was not wont to be so dainty. He suffered the rude multitude to throng and to thrust Him. Noli Me tangere would have done well on Good Friday. Why suffered He them then? why suffered He not her now? For all she had done and suffered one poor touch had been but an easy recompense. Of all other, this prohibition lay not against her: of all times, not at this.

II. If we look at THE REASON shall we shall find it yet more strange — "I am not yet ascended." But when He was ascended, one would think, she should be further off still. Let us consult upon this prohibition. Noli Me tangere can rise but one of these ways.

1. On His part that was touched. "Touch Me not," you will hurt Me, or, I shall hurt you; I am fire, I shall scorch you: an edge tool, I shall wound you: pitch, I shall defile you: some contagious thing, I shall infect you. But Christ was not now in state to receive or do any hurt.

2. We resolve, then, it was notch Christ's part. He might be touched, and was by Thomas; but on hers she might not touch Him.-1 thinks it was to correct her want of due reverence. After her wonted fashion, she made toward Him; nor with that regard which His new glorified estate demanded. The touchstone of our touching Christ is with all regard and reverence that may be. Two causes of this. One, a defect in her judgment; the other, an excess in her affection. Christ's reason imports as much. You touch Me, not as if I were upon ascending, but as if to stay here still. Hence we learn, that when He sees we forget ourselves, Christ will take a little state upon Him; will not be saluted with Rabboni, but with some more seemly term. Thomas said, "My Lord and my God." It is no excuse to say all was out of love. Love, if it be right, doth nothing uncomely. And such love Christ loves. A strange kind of love, when, for very love to Christ, we care not how we carry ourselves towards Him. This may be said, she was not before so carried away with sorrow, but she was now as far gone in the other of joy: and so like enough to forget herself, as Peter on the Mount. He knew not what he said, nor she what she did. Out of which our lesson is, that in the sudden surprise of any passion no touching Christ then. Say she were unfit, yet all is not clear. For why then did others touch? Thomas with his faith in his fingers' ends? They touched because they believed not; she touched not because she misbelieved. They touched that they might know He was risen: she touched not that she might know He was not so risen, as in former times she had known Him. If the text be against rudeness, to restrain it; then is it for reverence to enjoin it.-2 Gregory thinks it was to hasten the message, and that all was but to save time. As if He should have said, "There is a matter in hand, would be done out of hand; and therefore for this time hands off." And the reason will follow well so. "You need not be so hasty, I am not yet ascended. You may do this at some other time." To the disciples and to Christ no haste was too much; all delay too long. Yet a touch and away would not have taken up so much time. True, but He easily foresaw if He suffered her to touch that she would have taken hold too, not have let Him go.-3 thinks it was to wean her from all fleshly touching, and teach her a new and true touch. As if, till He were ascended, He would not be touched; and then He would. And there is reason for this sense. For the touch of His body, which she so much desired; that could last but forty days. Christ Himself touched upon this point in John 6:62. It was her error to be all for the corporeal presence; for the touch with the fingers. So were His disciples. From which they were now to be weaned. That if they had before known Christ, or touched Him after the flesh, yet now from henceforth they were to do so no more. Christ resolves the point. The flesh, the touching, the eating, profits nothing. The words He spake were spirit. So the touching, the eating, to be spiritual And Thomas, and Mary, or whosoever touched Him on earth, if they had not been more happy to touch Him with their faith, than with their fingers' end, they had had no good by it at all. It was found better with it, to touch the hem of His garment, than without it, to touch any part of His body. Now, if faith be to touch, that will touch Him no less in heaven than here.

(Bp. Andrewes.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Jesus saith unto 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.

WEB: Jesus said to her, "Don't hold me, for I haven't yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brothers, and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

Mary Magdalene and Thomas with the Risen Christ
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