Mary Magdelene vs Thomas


I’ve often wondered why Jesus said to Mary Magdelene that he did not want to be touched because he had not yet ascended to his Father. This was the occasion of Easter Morn when she saw him in the garden and wanted to touch him.

Because a short time after this, when Jesus appeared in the upper room to his disciples, Thomas did not believe them when they told him about Jesus’ appearance to them. Then later Jesus appeared to them again and Thomas was with them. And he told Thomas to come and put his hand in his side and fingers in his hands and feet where the nails had been.

So he told Mary not to touch him, and he told Thomas to touch him.


I think, on seeing Jesus, Mary Magdalene thought that he was back to stay. To correct this thought, Jesus asked her not to cling to him and to the thought that he was back to stay, as he had returned only temporarily and would soon ascend to the Father.


I’ve read discussions of this but I don’t remember what the speculations were.

when Thomas touches Jesus, he says “my LORD and my God.”

MM’s approach to Jesus was not or does not seem to me to be at the same level of faith. It was much more than a casual get-together, nice-to-see-you-again event.

Both certainly were surprised and maybe shocked to see Jesus.


Not at the same level of faith?!
Mary Magdalene?!

I’d say she had the highest level of faith of all his disciples.



Very interesting question. I look forward to hearing all the responses.


Yes! I agree. Her repentance was very deep indeed!

I believe the Lord was saying to her, when He said “Do not cling to me”, that she needed to cling to Him in deep faith, without physical sight, because His physical presence was about to leave soon.

He is saying that to all of us! He is still with us.


I don’t think that is what he is saying.


Keep in mind that under Jewish law it was unlawful for a woman to touch a man to whom she was not married.

And vice versa.



Could it be that Jesus, tho he told Thomas to touch him, knew Thomas would not touch him, and would be satisfied in just seeing Jesus in front of him? So in that way he was never touched before his ascension into heaven by anyone.

But this would still leave the mystery of why he did not want to be touched before he ascended to his father.

Jesus did however eat fish with his Apostles on the seashore after Easter.
So he was touched by fish before his ascension by eating.


I believe the correct interpretation was for Mary not to be awed by His physical presence. Remember that she was the one who discovered the empty tomb, and she was the one to bring the news to the disciples. This is historically important because at that time a women could not even testify in a court, even if she had personally witnessed a crime. Her word was not held with respect. This further strengthens the truth of the resurrected Christ. If a hoax was being perpetrated, no men of the time would have even thought to have a woman involved since no one would believe her. Even so, the disciples had to go look for themselves.

As for not touching a man, this little explains the woman washing Chris’s feet with her tears and hair and Christ’s unconditional acceptance of the act…

There was something deeper than an Old Testament law at stake here…


Good point.

Perhaps also it was because of Mary Magdalene’s faith- not because it was small but because it was great. Mary believed and therefore didn’t need to touch Him. Thomas refused to believe without touch, so Our Lord was gracious, even to the non believer. During His life Jesus always met people where they were, after resurrection He is still so considerate of our individual needs.


Keep in mind that John’s Gospel is highly spiritual. He does not necessarily stick to the same timeline as the other Gospels. John portrays the same events very differently.

Also remember that Jesus said he must go to the Father before the Holy Spirit comes.

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. (John 20:22)

Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit the night after his resurrection. In John’s Gospel the resurrection and ascension were one “theological action”. John portrays’ Jesus as having returned from the Father that very night, glorified, and the Holy Spirit is given to the disciples. This is John’s version of Pentecost, the receipt of the Holy Spirit by the Church.

In John’s Gospel, Mary “clings” or “holds on” to Jesus before he ascends to the Father. The sense is that she is holding him back from completing part of his mission - ascending to the Father. Jesus is anxious to go and returns that very night, “standing in their midst” and gives the Holy Spirit to the disciples. Only then is Thomas is invited touch Jesus.

***Mary holds Jesus. Jesus says “Don’t do that. I have not yet been glorified.”

Thomas demands to touch Jesus. Jesus says, “Go ahead.” Thomas says, “No way, you are the glorified God!”***

They won’t touch Jesus after he is glorified. That is what the Eucharist is for. The whole thing is Eucharistic. John’s whole Gospel is Eucharistic.

Seeing and touching and conversing with God are major themes in John’s writings.



Would you say that Jesus had two ascensions? One almost immediately after his resurrection before appearing to Thomas. And another 40 days later.

And why would he need to ascend to his Father to be glorified? What does this glorification mean? That Jesus as man, was not glorified until he went to his Father?

Or if you can give me a reference I could read up on it.


Another sense might be that Jesus was comforting Mary Magdalene by saying “Do not cling to me” (now, since) I have not (yet) ascended to my Heavenly Father.

IOW, fear not, I will be with you still a while longer. But when I ascend to my Heavenly Father, then you will cling to me and I will cling to you.


No. Not two ascensions.

The Gospels are not timelines nor are they history books. John simply portrays the events differently than the synoptics, that’s all. They all communicate spiritual truths for our salvation…

Luke (and Paul) were more charismatic. He portrays the receipt of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire, mighty wind, people speaking in different languages - dramatic charismatic events. John (and Peter) were more contemplative. They portray the events as an indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each person, a personal encounter with the living God who gives life to the disciples and to the Church. Both the charismatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are true, but there are not two ascensions.

Jesus said he had to go to the Father before the Holy Spirit would come - those were Jesus’ words. Luke places this at the Ascension and Pentecost. John places this on the night after Jesus’ resurrection.

I don’t have a reference other than the many Bible studies I’ve been to and a decade of reading Scripture daily.



When Jesus is telling Mary no to “cling to Him” I was under the impression that the author is trying to prove the point that Jesus is PHYSICALLY there, in the flesh, not a ghost. He says “do not cling to me for I have not yet ascended to my Father.”…so we know where his BODY is going.

Thomas, on the other hand, says he is not going to believe unless he can touch Him. So Jesus, let’s Him touch his wounds. Thomas is not “clinging” to Him but is touching the specific wounds. This is to show the body that has been risen is not an impostor, look alike or twin-indeed it is the crucified Christ-he has the physical marks to prove it. When Mary Magdalene initially sees Risen Jesus, she doesn’t recognize Him and there is not mention when she “recognizes” Him of his wounds. (Remember there are stories circulating to this day that the Risen Christ was an impostor.)

Both stories are to show Jesus is present in body. There have been many heresies over the years that Jesus just rose as a spirit-like a ghost. (I even remember this going around in the 80s).


I have often wondered about this situation, also. As I was reading the OP and some of the responses, it struck me that the real reason might be a combination of several of those responses, along with a little twist that seems to make perfect sense to me. Part of what I think is relevant is the fact that Mary is a woman and Thomas is a man, but I think it goes far beyond the Jewish traditions related to that fact. I think it has more to do with the positions that each of them held among His followers and less about whether either of them was “more faithful” than the other, or that either of them was a man or a woman.

When we consider the fact that Thomas was an Apostle who was chosen by Jesus to be a leader in His Church, and that he was specifically consecrated to hold that priestly position, then we have to believe that that was the greatest difference between him and Mary Magdalen. At the Last Supper, Jesus gave all of the Apostles the power to confect His Body and Blood from simple bread and wine. They were blessed in a special way for that purpose (along with all other Priests since then), so they were allowed to hold His Body in their hands, by the commission that Jesus imposed on them that night. Mary Magdalen was not an Apostle (Priest) and did not have that privilege. She would not have that privilege until the Apostles began celebrating the “breaking of the bread” in remembrance of the Last Supper. Then, she could receive the Body of Christ from the hands of the Apostles.

I think this makes the most sense, at least to me. :shrug:




I would agree with all you said.

But still this doesn’t explain why Jesus told Mary not to cling to him because … he has not yet ascended. To me this means that it would be ok for Mary to cling to him if he had ascended … but he hadn’t, so don’t cling.

So why did Jesus have to ascend first?


Because the Holy Spirit would not come if Jesus did not ascend to the Father.

***Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. *(John 16:7)


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