Don't Hold On

Have you ever had a conversation with a friend that was going in a predictable direction, and then all of a sudden they said something so out of character you were at a loss for words? It can stop you in your tracks. Your brain was all set to walk in a particular direction, and then your friend pulled a U-turn at mach 3.

“I think the Penguins have a really great shot at winning the cup this year!”

“Yeah, they’ve gotten some really great goaltending and some depth scoring, and I think they have a shot…”

“I’m seriously considering getting a puppy.”

Perhaps you stand there, just sort of slack jawed, not sure where this is coming from or what could possibly have brought it about.

I’ll be honest, the end of John’s resurrection story hits me a little bit like that:

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[a] “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 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.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:16-18)

Mary reaches in for a hug from Jesus. What on earth could be more predictable than an embrace of the loving God-man himself, right? I mean first of all, Mary and Jesus have walked for years together. They’re friends. Their buds. I’m sure the occasional hug has come up. Not only that, but Jesus was just dead and now he’s alive. Surely an embrace seems appropriate! And still further, Jesus is well, Jesus! Hugs are his thing, right?

And yet to all of this, Jesus says “Woah there…don’t hold on.” What gives? I mean does the resurrected Jesus suddenly have claustrophobia? He needs a minute to remember what breathing is? What’s going on?

Rob Bell said in a sermon long ago that perhaps it’s because Jesus doesn’t want Mary to assume that his coming back will mean everything is the way it was. Perhaps Jesus wants to instigate something new, and you can’t do that if you’re holding on to the way the relationship used to be. Now suddenly Jesus’ response makes a world of sense. I mean, isn’t it true that we are prone to do this? When things get a little bit rough for me in my walk with Christ, my tendency is to run back to the predictable safe places. I will always feel like I feel God’s presence on the trails at Pine Springs Camp. I will always feel like Jesus is right next to me watching the sunrise with a cup of coffee on my front porch. There’s a comfort in this predictability.

But what if Jesus wants to call me out to something new? What if Jesus wants me to experience his goodness in a new way? If I’m going to do that, it’s going to mean that I can’t hold on to the way things were. I might have to leave behind some of my familiar routines, not because they’re bad, but because Jesus is calling me to something better. Jesus wants Mary to see a new way of interacting with Jesus. He wants her to know resurrection life.

So friends, as this year is well underway, don’t hold on to the way things were. Don’t hold on to patterns that have gotten stale just because they’re how we always did things. Don’t hold on to relationships that are dragging you down. And don’t hold on to the old way of life, especially if it’s keeping you from the goodness of the resurrection life in Christ.

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