“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” (Jn 20:11-18)
“I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” It was always a curious thing that Jesus would refer to God as “My Father.” He instructed the disciples to pray our Father. But when he referred to the Father, it was “My Father.” This phrasing marked a special relationship that Jesus has with the Father as the only begotten Son. It made him equal with the Father.
Now Jesus is resurrected from the dead. He tells Mary Magdalene not to cling to him, he has not yet ascended to the Father. He is instructing her that though he has risen the relationship has changed. He won’t be walking with them as he was before. She has to let go of those dreams.
I’m sure we all have them. People wish heaven had visiting hours they say, as if it were a hospital, or perhaps a prison. It isn’t though, and if we could visit we would never actually leave. Think about how hard it is to go home after a particularly good vacation. You dread all the work that has built up. You dread leaving behind the pampered life, the relaxed atmosphere, the new friends, the beach, the mountains, the list could go on. If heaven had visiting hours, we would be in trouble. The closest thing we have is communion, we sing the Sanctus with all the company of heaven because there in the bread and wine the kingdom of God breaks into this world, and there we feast on forgiveness with all the saints past, present and future. We share that meal, in other words, not only with those we see at the altar, and not only with Christ, but with our deceased loved ones, the ones we wish we could visit in heaven. If you really want to visit with them in heaven then attend to that, because there you receive the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and are assured that you will see them again. But we have to say good bye to them on earth. It isn’t the end. The relationship changes.
Jesus had his purpose for taking on the form of a servant and walking amongst us in Mufti as it were. He wanted to instruct us in the gospel and then implement it with his death on the cross, and confirm it with his resurrection. The whole time he let people know who he was, but he was so convincing as a human that no one believed him. They crucified him. They murdered the author of life. And we played our part with our sin, it was for our sin that he did this, because of our sin. Your sin made it necessary. But now everything is changed. He has died, your sins have been paid for, he has risen, you have been justified. Now he will return to the Father, he will resume his glory. It is not that he will no longer be with us, but he will be with us in a new manner. Now he is with us in such a manner that his glory is not put aside, and neither his humanity. But we do not see him, do not converse with him as we do a friend at the coffee shop. But this is why he must ascend, so that he can be with us. So that he can be with the disciples themselves whom he sends out into the world, to the ends of the earth with his proclamation as ambassadors of peace. Because now everything has been accomplished, and his Father is now our Father, no longer estranged to us by our sin, but reconciled to us in the blood of Christ.