Jesus said to her “Do not hold on to me, because 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.”
Jesus had to leave in order for his friends to realize that ‘Lo, I am with you always till the end of the age’.
Jesus had to dematerialize for his movement to materialize. This is very much like belief, it too must dematerialize to materialize into its naturally maleable form. Mary’s desire to be close to Jesus is quite admirable. Here is someone who share her life with Jesus, who ate and drank with the Rabbi from Nazareth, they were friends in a society where this was a little more than taboo. For Mary to want to embrace the risen Jesus is an act of social change.
There is a symbiotic connection, a history that is present here. It’s tangible. The tension you could cut with a knife. Rather than turn and embrace her or even validate her feelings, Jesus pushes her away. In a sense, he rejects her. Jesus has to reject us so we can find him. Mary has arrived with the idea that Jesus has come to stay. She has arrived with her ideas that Jesus is still the same as he has been. I wonder if we do the same?
Sometimes we might enter into the Jesus narrative expecting Jesus to be the same person we learned about in Sunday School or the Jesus we talked about a week ago. But somehow he seems distant. He seems cold and calculated. He sees something we don’t, our inability or fear of change. He pushed the envelope with us. He walks away. He turns his back on us. He has things to do that are more important than us. This stings and has emotional consequences, yet Jesus stays the course. Why? Because if he stays we won’t go anywhere.
We will just follow. We will just listen.
We won’t act unless he acts.
We will believe what he tells us
and never challenge it.
We will become Jesus zombies.
Jesus doesn’t want zombies, he doesn’t want cognitive slaves, he wants people who are willing to use their freedom to subvert the empire, the social order and love the other. Jesus realizes if he stays that he is going to become a distraction from what he came to do – to show us how to transform the globe.
Sometime I think we want so badly to be just like Mary, wanting so passionately to hold Jesus and thinking that holding Jesus is going to make the world a better place, but Jesus has to leave the world for it to get better. He tells her to let him go.
Maybe one of the best things for Christianity to do is to let go of Jesus.
I am not saying we must reject what Jesus stands for, but maybe we need to overcome the inherent addiction to create theological kingdoms around the person of Jesus. In this light, we must be willing to invite the rejection of Jesus to come and deliver us from the need to make sense of Jesus. We want to keep Jesus right where he is and right where we think he should be. Jesus disagrees with this idea, this is why ultimately theology fails us, because if we commit to that, we will never get to know the Jesus who ‘is not here’, the
Jesus who transcends us.
In this moment, the Jesus who transends us, is the Jesus who becomes post-structural, post-identity. Jesus divorces himself from a moment where someone is trying to frame him into who he was prior to his death encounter. Jesus is more than who he was before his death, he makes that point clear in this liberating act of rejection. Jesus in this moment rejects the idea of identity in the philosophical sense. He ultimately infoms Mary that he is beyond it. The reference about the Father is a phrase of transcendence. Jesus is saying he is beyond this. I also think he was teaching her something (as well as us) about identity. That we can get too comfortable with what we know about someone else close to us. We must constantly look for opportunities to see the Jesus who lies beyond what we know. Once we invite his rejection we can realize that is always with us…
I think another key element in this narrative, is that Mary is the one who is truly rejecting Jesus. She is rejecting Jesus for who he could be, for all of who he is. Mary can’t seem to let go of the Jesus she loved and who loved him. Rejection is a hard thing, especially if the person you see in front of you has changed your life in a dramatic way. It’s like someone stabbing you in the back. We need Jesus to ‘stab us in the back’, I know this sounds harsh, but the longer we commit to fighting for our own versions of Jesus the longer he stays right where he shouldn’t be. Jesus obviously has a place, an idea, and a goal in mind. He subverts her desire for him to stay right where she thinks she needs him to be.
It is in her rejection that she finds the ability to move. To run. To tell others. In Jesus’ rejection of her, there is freedom. She finds it and it literally moves her. If we spend so much time in hollowed (not hallowed) discourse on the person of Jesus and try to keep him where we think he should be, then his rejection of us is inevitable and we should welcome and invite it. Because it is in his rejection that we find salvation from all the Jesus’ we’ve met.
In the cartoon Open Season 2 there is a German Daschund name ‘Weanie’. He gets lost along the way and finds himself in the wild, towards the end of the movie he discovers he is better settled at home. In his traditional environment. Mary thought Jesus belonged in his traditional environment, but, it seems Jesus thinks he belongs in the wild, where they roam. Where they uknown lives and breathes. It seems Jesus finds comfort in ‘not being here’, but rather in being everywhere.