After yesterday’s more ugly reading, full of deceit and conspiracy and fraud, today’s, from John, is more internal, personal, and poignant. Mary had been cured of seven demons, she owed her whole new life to Jesus. It is only through him that she found wholeness, and all that was dashed when he was killed.
And now, as a final indignity, she isn’t even allowed to care for his body. Not understanding, she sees the angels--she does not know they are angels--and is weeping. She is weeping because Jesus is dead, and she is weeping because even his body is denied her. Then, seeing Jesus, still not understanding--she does not know he is Jesus--she is still weeping. And he asks her, just as the angels did, why she is weeping.
The angels and Jesus both know, and in her desperation, she asks Jesus for the body. Note the reversal here: Jesus has given himself to her, and gives his body to us, and this is exactly what she is looking for: the body of Jesus, the body of Christ. And it is what she finds. But Jesus says not to hold on to him, not to hold on to his body.
How did the encounter with Mary end? We are not told. The resurrection appearances of Christ are filled with stories of encounter and recognition, but not so much of parting. We only get stories of parting when Luke and Matthew describe the ascension. So here she is, overjoyed at the recognition, given Jesus’ body yet not given Jesus’ body, and what does she do? She returns to the disciples.
The body of Jesus, the body she was not allowed to hold on to, was his physical body. The old is gone; gone are the days of Jesus walking around and teaching and eating with his disciples. Even though after his resurrection he does do these things, it is not in the same way, it is strange and mysterious, and always ends not with further eating and teaching and walking around, but instead with the people who have seen the risen Christ being sent to go and announce to others what has happened to them.
During his earthly life, Jesus’ body was most importantly that of an ordinary human being. Now, after his resurrection, it is most importantly found in the community of the disciples. Mary is not to stay in the garden and hold on to his physical body; she is to go to the disciples: to the Church, to the Body of Christ, and tell them what Jesus has said and done for her.
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