The cutting room floor: Easter Monday

  Worship Worship Blog Chandler Stokes
Monday, April 21, 2014

by Rev. Chandler Stokes, senior pastor

On Easter, we read the story of Mary Magdalene meeting Jesus outside the tomb (in John 20:11–18).

In the sermon, I talked about the old King James translation. In that 17th century translation, after Mary recognizes Jesus, he says to her, “Don’t touch me.” It is a mistranslation, which was corrected in the RSV to read, “Don’t hold on to me.” The newer translation is very helpful.

On Sunday, I said that it is clear that Mary embraces Jesus; it is a sign of her relief and joy at seeing him after she lost him to death—and that her embrace is a sign of her love. All that is true, but there is more. 

The old KJV translation suggests that there is something too holy about Jesus, something so otherworldly that Mary should not touch him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Especially in the narrative world of John’s gospel, Jesus, as the Word made flesh, is utterly touchable, embraceable. Consonant with that view, in the next story in John, Jesus explicitly invites Thomas to touch him, to touch his wounds. The divine invites our touching; the divine has become human flesh in Jesus. The old translation suggests some gulf between us and God; contrariwise, the Incarnation is the bridging of those gulfs. 

As I said on Sunday, Jesus asks Mary to let go so that he can be in more than just one place, so that he can not only be present in a garden in Jerusalem but on the road to Emmaus and here in GR. That is the only reason he asks her to let go, so that he can be more available to more of his beloved children. He invites her holding him—love wants to hold on.

It is too bad that there has persisted a kind of reticence to touch the holy. In particular, we try to communicate this intimacy that the holy invites at the Lord’s Supper, but the promise of God's intimacy is always there. God has become flesh in Jesus; it is a promise of holiness in all of our lives. The preaching series that begins on May 4 will explore holiness in our lives and how we may seek holiness in an unredeemed world.

But, before that, we have one more exploration of the resurrection texts: this time Mark’s story in Mark 16:1-8, which will be lead by our talented intern Ryan Donahoe from Western Theological Seminary.