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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels

Chapter 85 - John 20:17 - Christ's Work in Heaven, and Ours on Earth Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius




Christ's Work In Heaven, And Ours On Earth.


     "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."-John 20:17.



     This passage is very generally taken to mean, "Do not so cling to me, you will have other opportunities of meeting me, for I shall not be going to my Father for some time yet." But (1) it is doubtful whether "touch" can mean this; (2) this meaning does not accord with the reason, which is "I have not yet gone," not "I am not yet going"; (3) the treatment of Thomas, who was allowed to touch, is at variance with this.

     Looking into the words, we shall discover a truer sense. The command is, "touch me not"; the reason is, "I am not yet ascended," &c. Very little had passed between the Lord and Mary. He had said, "Mary"; she had replied, "Rabboni," accompanying the word with some significant look and gesture, which the Lord quite understood. To this look and gesture, or rather to the thought which they indicated, our Lord replies. For it was his custom to direct his answers to the thoughts more than to the words of his disciples; Luke 9:47, "Jesus perceiving the thought of their heart."

     Christ's words, then, are directed to Mary's thought. She had sprung forward to embrace Him, under the impression that all He had spoken of before his death was now done; that He had been to the Father, and that He was now come again to receive his own to Himself. "Now all is fulfilled," she thought; "He has returned from the Father; He is going to take us to his kingdom; we shall be for ever with Him." No, not yet, is Christ's answer; you speak and act as if all were done. Not so. I have more work to do, and you have more work to do; we must separate again; I to do my work, you to do yours.

     There is a remarkable difference between Mary's case and that of Thomas. She believed too much; he too little. She was all faith,-faith too hasty in its conclusions; he was all unbelief-unbelief refusing to believe even that this was his Master. Her too eager faith is corrected by the Touch me not, but Go, &c.; his unbelief is removed by the "Reach hither thy hand," &c. Each is treated with marvelous wisdom, and gentleness, and love. How unlike man's way of dealing! He would have said to faith, Touch me; to unbelief, Touch me not. But the skill of the divine physician is as conspicuous in his treatment of the two cases as is his love.

     The mistake which is here corrected by the Lord, is a very natural one, and of a very blessed kind. It is simply that of too great eagerness; ante-dating the joy of the kingdom, of the marriage-feast; saying too soon, "the winter is past, the rain is over and gone," &c. It is a mistake not so common with us as with the early Christians, who, like Mary, seemed to be every moment counting on entering into the joy of the Lord.

The substance, then, of the Lord's exhortation is, "be calm and patient; he that believeth doth not make haste; I have work to do, which must be done before we sit down together in my Father's house; and you the same. Let us consider these two things then,-Christ's work, our work.

     I. Christ's work. He has gone to the Father; He is now at his right hand; and when that work is done we shall be admitted to touch Him; admitted to his joy; to drink the new wine with Him in his kingdom. What, then, is the work He has gone to do? He has gone-

     (1.) To get the Spirit for us. Not till He was glorified was the Spirit given in its fullness. Now He has received for us the promise of the Father,-gifts for men. He is now the possessor and dispenser of the Holy Ghost.

     (2.) To intercede for us. His work of intercession is now going on in heaven; He ever liveth to intercede for us; He is our advocate with the Father; our forerunner, appearing in the presence of God for us.

     (3.) To prepare a place for us. In his Father's house are many mansions; more than enough for the great multitude that no man can number. In these He has gone to prepare a place for us. What that preparation is we know not; how long it may take we know not. But it is going on just now and when it is done He will come again and receive us to Himself, that where He is there we may be also.

     (4.) To give repentance and forgiveness. For this specially He is exalted. This work He has been carrying on since Pentecost, when the first installment was exhibited. He is doing it daily still.

     Thus, then, He cautions us,-be calm, be patient, haste not, fret not; I have gone to do my work. It must be done, and then no more delay.

     II. Our work. Touch me not, said the Lord, but go,-go and tell. Mary hasted, and did what her Lord commanded. She had something else to do than touching or enjoying. She had work. So have we. We have-

     (1.) Work for ourselves. It is work expressed in such exhortations as these: follow me, take up your cross, deny self, work while it is day, let your light shine, grow in grace, pray without ceasing.

     (2.) Work for the church. We are members of one body, helping each other, bearing each other's burdens, comforting each other, strengthening each other's hands, binding up each other's wounds, supplying each other's wants.

     (3.) Work for the world. We are called out of the world, not to take no interest in it, but to pity and pray for it. Let our eye be on dying men; seeking to save them, pulling them out of the fire, reproving, warning, inviting, beseeching. We have much of this work to do, and little time to do it in.

     Christ's work in heaven and ours on earth will soon be done. Then it will no longer be, Touch me not; but, Come ye blessed. We shall sit down under his shadow; He shall say, Come with me from Lebanon; open to me my sister, my love; and it shall be said, Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved; and we shall say, Let Him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. Then shall we touch Him without rebuke, sitting down with Him at the marriage supper, and shall ever be forever with the Lord.