Do Not Touch Me

John 20:17


Jesus said to her, ‘You may not touch me, for not  yet I have ascended toward the Father;  go, however, toward the brothers of Me and speak to them, ‘I ascend to the Father of Me and Father of yous, and God of Me and God of yous.’’” 

Section One


1.0 Jesus Arose. After Jesus arose from the grave, Jesus told Mary not to touch Him. He gave only one reason: “for not yet I have ascended to the Father.” Jesus then commanded Mary to go and tell the brothers of Jesus that: “I am ascending to the Father of Me and the Father of yous, the God of Me and the God of yous.” Why did Jesus tell Mary that she may not touch Him? This study aims to shed some light from the Scriptures upon that issue. First, we will examine the usage of the word “touch” in the New Testament. Second, we will consider the commands of Jesus in the context of John 20:17. Third, we will scan the following account of Jesus and Thomas. Fourth, we will review the Post-Resurrection ministry of Jesus.


Section Two

Word Studies

2.0 Touch Study. At the empty tomb, Jesus commanded Mary not to touch Him (John 20:17). 1Jesus used the word “touch” (“ἅπτου”–present middle imperative, second singular). The term “touch” (“ἅπτου”)  occurs in different forms over thirty times in the New Testament. Therefore, we may study the word “touch” (“ἅπτου”) to understand its usage in the New Testament. Because God inspired each word in the Bible, we many learn more from the use of that particular word and what “touch” (“ἅπτου”) means in various contexts. The word study of the term “touch” may illuminate more fully what Jesus meant when He prohibited Mary from touching Him. Please keep in mind that God inspired the individual words in the  New Testament (“verbal inspiration). Therefore, the usage of a word in the New Testament provides the most definitive answer to the semantic range of that word. Because of the verbal inspiration of the New Testament, the exact words really make a difference. Therefore, usage of a particular word outside the New Testament does not carry the same weight as the usage of that word in the New Testament. If the usage of a word in the New Testament differs from original root meaning of the word, then we know God poured a special meaning (or range of meanings) into that word in the verbally inspired New Testament. Therefore, any translation that adopts a usage of a particular word from outside the New Testament should be evaluated against the New Testament usage of that particular word. Therefore, the New Testament usage should be favored generally over the usage outside the New Testament. In summary, verbal inspiration of the New Testament should prompt translators to exercise extreme caution about adopting a usage from outside the New Testament which is not expressed in or inconsistent with the New Testament usage of that word. Stretching the semantic range of a word should operate within the bounds of verbal inspiration.  

Jesus Touched

2.1 Jesus Touched and Healed. Jesus healed different people, with different physical diseases, in different places by touching them. I will refer to this act as Touch Healing. Jesus performed signs of healing, identifying Him as the anointed One of God and causing crowds to follow Him (John 6:2). Jesus also demonstrated the compassion of God in healing people with His touch (Mark 1:41). Compare Acts 5:12, 14:3 and 19:11 for the continuation of that ministry of Touch Healing.

2.1.1 Leper. Jesus touched  a leper and healed him (Matthew 8:3). 2Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular).

2.1.2 Peter’s Mother-in Law. Jesus touched Peter’s Mother-in-Law with fever and healed her (Matthew 8:15). 3Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular).

2.1.3 Bethsaida Blind Man. A blind man at Bethsaida was brought to Jesus so that Jesus may touch Him. Jesus made clay and applied it to his eyes. Jesus then laid His hands on the the eyes of Bethsaida Blind Man and his eyes looked through  and he was restored. 4Bethsaida Blind Man was brought to Jesus for the specific purpose “that him Jesus may touch” (“ἵνα αὐτοῦ ἅψηται”–aorist middle subjunctive, third singular) (Mark 8:22).

2.1.4 Two Blind Men.  Jesus touched two blind men who had faith for healing (Matthew 9:29).  5Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular).

2.1.5 Two Blind Men Near Jericho. Jesus had compassion on two blind near Jericho and touched their eyes and they were healed (Matthew 20:34). 6Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular).

2.1.6 Leper. Jesus touched a leper and healed him (Mark 1:41). 7Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular).

2.1.7 Blind and Mute Man. Jesus healed a man mute and dumb by spitting on His hand and touched the man’s tongue (Mark 7:33).  8Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular).

2.1.8 Leprosy-Covered Man. Jesus touched a leper and healed him (Luke 5:13).  9Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular).

2.1.9 Malchus. Jesus touched the ear of Malchus and healed him (Luke 22:51; compare John 18:10).  10Jesus used the term “toucheding”   (“ἁψάμενος”–aorist middle participle, nominative masculine singular).

2.1.10 Summary of Touch Healing

Touch Healing means Jesus touched some people to heal their physical problem. Touch Healing does not minimize or deny faith, but Touch Healing focuses upon physical healing. Jesus healed all kinds of people in different places with different physical problems with His Touch Healing. In John 20:17, Mary did not need physical healing and Jesus did not need to touch her to heal a physical problem with her body. Likewise, Mary already believed He was the Risen Savior (John 20:16) and did not need a sign for her to believe. Therefore, Mary was not seeking physical healing with her desire to touch Jesus and we may investigate other reasons Jesus notified Mary not to touch Him right then.

2.2 Jesus Touched  People To Overcome Their Fear. Jesus touched Peter, James, John as they lay on the ground in fear on Mount of Transfiguration after they heard the voice of God the Father commanding them to listen to Jesus, the Son of God, with Whom God the Father was well pleased (Matthew 17:5-8). Jesus used His touch to encourage them to get up and and not be afraid. Compare Daniel 9:21 and 10:10.  11Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular). Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James felt great fear as the met the angel and left the empty tomb.  

2.2.1 Summary of Jesus Touched Peter, James and John. Jesus touched the three learners to help them overcome their fear and move forward.

Jesus touched Peter, James and John to help them overcome their fear of God the Father. Mary may was afraid when she left the tomb (Mark 16:8; Matthew 28:8). When she met Jesus in John 20:17, her fear may have still been present. For sure, Mary was very happy to see Jesus and grabbed Him right way as she worshipped Him (Matthew 28:8). Therefore, we may continue our investigation to consider other uses of the term touch. 

2.3 Jesus Touched a Coffin. With great compassion, Jesus touched the coffin at Nain. Jesus was moved with compassion and told the woman not to weep. (Luke 7:14).  12Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular).

Jesus touched the coffin holding the son of the Widow of Nain and He raised up the son to life before the crowds.

2.4 Children Brought to Jesus for His Touch.

2.4.1 Children Brought to Jesus for His Touch. People brought children to Jesus so that He would touch them. He gathered them in His arms and blessed them (Mark 10:13). 13Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular). The people brought their children (“παιδία”) for the purpose (“ἵνα”) of Jesus touching those children. The people acted with the intention and faith that Jesus would bless their children. I will refer to this act as the Touch Blessing. 

2.4.2 Bringing Even Babies To Jesus for His Touch. Jesus rebuked His learners because they hindered the crowds bringing their children so that Jesus would touch them (Luke 18:15). 14Jesus used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular).

2.4.3 Summary of Touch Blessing. 

Jesus touched the children and blessed them. In John 20:17, Mary was not a child and did not receive a Touch Blessing from Jesus at that time and place, although the touch of Jesus was always wonderful.

People Touched Jesus

2.5 People Touched Jesus. Some people touched Jesus so that they may be healed.

2.5.1 Woman Touched Jesus. Woman with Blood Flow touched the fringe of the garment of Jesus and was healed (Matthew 9:20-21); Jesus felt the power leave Him (Luke 8:46: see also Luke 8:44, 45, 46, 47, 49). 15Matthew used the term “touch” ((“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular) (Matthew 9:20-21). 

2.5.2  Gennesaret Crowd Touched. A crowd in Gennesaret implored Jesus that they might touch the fringe of His garment for healing (Matthew 14:36; see also Mark 6:56).  16Both Matthew and Mark used term “may touched” (“ἅψωνται–aorist middle subjunctive, third plural”) the fringe of His garment for healing.

2.5.3 Crowd Touched. Another crowd of afflicted people sought to touch Jesus for healing (Mark 3:10). 17Mark used the term “may touched” (“ἅψωνται”)–aorist middle subjunctive, third plural” to describe the crowd seeking healing by touching Jesus to be healed on many “scourges” (“μάστιγας”).

2.5.4 Great Throng of People Touched.  Many people were trying to touch Jesus, for power was coming from Him and healing all (Luke 9:19).  18Luke used the term “touched”  (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular).

2.5.5 Woman with Flow of Blood. A woman with a flow of blood touched Jesus and was healed (Mark 5:27, 28, 30, 31). 19Mark used the term “touched” “ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular) (Mark 5:27). She thought that if she “may touch” (“Ἐὰν ἅψωμαι–aorist middle subjunctive, first singular) the garments of Jesus, she will be healed (“σωθήσομαι–future passive indicative, first singular) (Mark 5:28). Having felt the power going out of Him, Jesus asked who touched (“ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular) Him (Mark 5:30).  The learners, noting the large crowd pressing upon Jesus, then asked Jesus why He said, “Who touched ἥψατο”–aorist middle indicative, third singular) Me?” (Mark 5:31). 

2.5.8 Woman Anointed Jesus. Simon the Pharisee objected to the woman, a notorious sinner, touching Jesus to anoint Him (Luke 7:39). 20Simon said that Jesus should have known the woman who “touches” (“ἅπτεται”–present middle indicative, third singular) Jesus was a sinner, and by implication, Jesus should have avoided such contact.

Men Touching a Woman

2.6  Fine Not To Touch a Woman. Paul said it was good for a man not to touch a woman (1 Corinthians 7:1). 21God revealed it is fine (“καλὸν”) for a man (“ἀνθρώπῳ”) not (“μὴ”) to touch (“ἅπτεσθαι”–present middle infinitive) a woman (“γυναικὸς”).

Touching Unclean

2.7 Do Not Touch Unclean. God enjoined touching unclean things (2 Corinthians 6:17). 22God commanded His people to be separate and not touch (“μὴ ἅπτεσθε”–present middle imperative, second plural) unclean and He will receive them.

Touch of Evil One

2.8 Evil One Touch. God promised that the evil one does not touch saints (1 John 5:18).  23Every person begotten out of God not sins, but born out of God keep him, and the evil one “not” (“οὐχ”) “touches” (“ἅπτεται”–present middle indicative, third singular) him.

Touch Contact–Dishonorable Commandments of Men

2.9 Touch Contact Commands by Men and GodGod distinguished different kinds of touch contact. 

2.91 Touch Contact Forbidden by Men. Some false teachers said believers may not touch contact some food (Colossians 2:21). 24Paul used the expression “May not you touch contact (“Μὴ ἅψῃ–aorist middle subjunctive, second singular”). “Not then may you taste” (“μηδὲ γεύσῃ”–aorist middle subjunctive, second singular). “Not then may you touch contact” (“μηδὲ θίγῃς–aorist middle subjunctive, second singular). By placing these commands side by side in the same sentence, Paul, writing under inspiration of God, drew distinctions between all those words. For our purposes in this article, we can see that each word describes a different kind of contact with something. Paul warned that such human commands against touch contact with certain foods are not only evil, but also worthless to control the indulgences of the flesh.

2.9.2  Touch Contact  of Death. At the command of God, Moses sprinkled blood so that the Passover Angel would not touch contact the firstborn (Hebrews 11:28). 25God used the term “touch contact” (“θίγῃς”–aorist active subjunctive, second singular) to describe sprinkling the blood so that the Passover Angel may not touch contact the firstborn in that house. 

2.9.3 Animal Touch Contact. God commanded Moses that any beast coming into touch contact with the holy mountain where God and Moses met  must be stoned (Hebrews 12:20). 26God used the term “touch contact” (“θίγῃ”–aorist active subjunctive, third singular) to describe the beast coming into “touch contact” with the holy mountain. 


2.10 Grabble. The term “grabble” means to grope, feel with your hands. God used the term four times in New Testament for very specific purposes.

2.11.1 Jesus: Grabble Me.  After His resurrection, Jesus commanded His learners, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; grabble Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. (Luke 24:39).” 27Jesus used the term “grabble” (“ἐψηλάφησαν”–aorist active imperative, second plural), meaning here that Jesus commanded the learners to grip Him with the hands. Mary believed Jesus had risen from the dead and then touched Him. She said “Rabboni” (John 20:16) and then forcefully grabbed the feet of Jesus.28God used the term ” (“ἐκράτησαν” aorist active indicative, third plural) grabbled. Mary also believed the word of the angel announcing the resurrection of Jesus before she touched Jesus (Matthew 28:8).

2.10.2 1 The Apostles Grabbled Jesus. John testified that the apostles grabbled Jesus (1 John 1:1). 29John used the term “grabbled” (“ἐψηλάφησαν”–aorist active imperative, second plural) (1 John 1:1). 

2.10.3  The World Might Grabble. Paul preached in Athens that the world would seek God, if perhaps they might grabble for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. 30Paul used the term “may grabble” (“ψηλαφήσειαν”–aorist active optative, third plural) (Acts 17:27).

2.10.4 Grabbled Mountain? God wrote that  “you have not come you have not come to a mountain that can be grabbled and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind (Hebrews 12:18). 31God used the term grabbled (“ψηλαφωμένῳ”–perfect middle/passive participle, dative neuter singular). Any beast contacting the mountain must be stoned (Hebrews 12:20; compare Hebrews 11:28).  

Examples of Old Testament Touch

2.12 Examples of Old Testament Usage of Touch. I listed a few of many examples of touch in the Old Testament. 

2.11.5 Fruit. Not touch fruit (“תִגְּע֖וּ“) (Genesis 3:3).

2.11.6 Pharaoh. Yahweh touched (“וַיְנַגַּ֨ע“) Pharoah (Genesis 12:17). 

2.11.7  Hollow of Thigh. After struggling with Jacob, the Angel stopped “and touched”  (“וַיִּגַּ֖ע”) socket of Jacob’s hip (Genesis 32:25).  See also Exodus 19:12-13; Exodus 29:37; 1 Samuel 10:26; 1 Kings 19:7; Isaiah 6:7 Jeremiah 1:9; Lamentations 4:15; Daniel 8:18,21; Daniel 10:10.

Section Three

The Context of John 20

In John 20, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. Having seen the stone rolled away from the tomb, she ran and informed both Simon Peter and the other disciple Jesus loved. They both ran to the tomb. They saw the empty tomb with linen wrappings left behind when Jesus left the tomb alive after death. They did not yet understand the Scripture He must rise again from the dead. They went away to their homes. Mary was weeping outside the tomb. She then stooped and saw two angels in the tomb. They asked her why she was weeping and she replied that someone had taken away the body of the Lord Jesus and she did not know where they had laid the body of Jesus. She then turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize Him at first, but then Jesus called her name, Mary. Immediately she recognized Jesus. Next, Jesus told her to stop clinging to Him. Only when we combine the different Gospel accounts do we gain a complete understanding of the events. Some time elapsed between the angels and the appearance of Jesus. The order of events presented in the other Gospel accounts of the empty tomb remains important to understanding the entire context of events. 

Section Four

Jesus and Worship

The order of events at the empty tomb of Jesus helps us understand Jesus telling Mary to stop touching Him. The events presented in different Gospels do not conflict, but present events from different points of view, revealing different aspects of the resurrection. In Matthew’s account, an angel at the tomb directed Mary and the other Mary to go quickly and take word to the learners that they would see Jesus in Galilee (Matthew 8:7). After they left the tomb, on the way to reporting to the learners, Jesus met them and greeted them (Matthew 28:9). The women at the tomb seized His feet and worshipped Jesus (Matthew 28:9).  Interestingly, Matthew used the same term “seized” to describe the arrest of Jesus for crucifixion: the officers “seized” Jesus (Mathew 26:57; mark 14:46). 32God used the term “seized” (“ἐκράτησαν” aorist active indicative, third plural) (Matthew 26:57). Therefore, Jesus was familiar with being seized by the officers before the women near the tomb seized His feet after His resurrection. 33The women near the tomb seized (“ἐκράτησαν” aorist active indicative, third plural) the feet of Jesus. This verb means strong gripping. See Matthew 12:11, will seize and lift; Matthew 14:3, seized for arrest of John the Baptist; Matthew 18:28, seized and throttled. Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid, but take My word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Matthew 28:10). Therefore, we know Jesus had no problem with the women seizing His feet and worshipping Him. The women were in fear (Mark 16:8), after the angel charged them to go and tell the disciples and Peter (Mark 16:8). The women left the tomb and fled, for trembling and ecstasy had gripped them. They spoke nothing to no one, for they feared (Mark 16:8).

Notice the order of events.

  1. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James went to the tomb to anoint Jesus (Matthew 28:1:Luke 24:1).
  2. They saw a young man in a white robe sitting on the stone once sealing the empty tomb. He said:  “Do not be amazed; He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6).
  3. That angel then told the women to go and quickly tell His disciples He is risen from the dead (Matthew 28:7).
  4. Mary stood outside the tomb weeping and looked into it (John 20:11).
  5. Mary saw two angels inside the tomb (John 20:12).
  6. The women went out from the empty tomb with fear and great joy (Matthew 28:8).
  7. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid (Mark 16:8).
  8. They left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and began to run to report to His disciples (Mark 16:8).
  9. Jesus met them and greeted them (Mark 16:8).
  10. They came up and seized His feet and worshipped Him (Matthew 28:9), for trembling and astonishment had gripped them (Mark 16:8).
  11.  Jesus said to Mary, “Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father” (John 20:17).
  12.  Then Jesus said to the women, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Matthew 28:10).

I did not spend considerable time trying to harmonize the passages. It may be harmonized in multiple ways, depending upon who left the tomb and when they left. Then, different women may have met Jesus at different times. I look forward to hearing about more harmonizations. I was focusing here upon the touching of Jesus, not the overall harmonization.

Section Five

Jesus and Thomas

Jesus appeared to Thomas after he expressed doubts about the resurrection of Jesus. The learners were gathered together inside and Thomas was with them. After the doors were shut, Jesus came and said: “Peace be with you.”  Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing. Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God! Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.'” (John 20:26-29). Jesus invited Thomas to reach with his hand and touch the place where the nails went through His hands and to put his hand into the side of Jesus. Jesus had no problem with Thomas making physical contact with Him. Therefore, we know that Jesus did not forbid all forms of physical contact after His resurrection and before His ascension. Therefore, Jesus had some special reason for instructing Mary not to touch Him. In fact, women had already grasped Jesus before He spoke to Mary about touching Him.

Section Six

The Post-Resurrection Ministry of Jesus

Jesus conducted a post-resurrection ministry which included eating in front of HIs disciples (Luke 24:41-43). As we noted above, Jesus also invited His learners to grabble Him and see, “for a spirit does have bones as you you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). Therefore, when coupled with a similar invitation to Thomas, we know that Jesus actually invited His learners to grabble Him after His resurrection and before His ascension. Therefore, Jesus had a special reason, for instructing Mary not to touch Him at that particular time and place.

Section Seven


Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James came to the tomb and found it empty. They met an angel there who directed them to go and tell the learners that Jesus was not there, but risen. Jesus would meet His learners in Galilee. After seeing the angel and the empty tomb, great fear fell upon the women. After they left the tomb on the way to report the message to the learners of Jesus, they met Jesus in person. Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener, until Jesus called her by name. Both Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James then fell down in worship and grabbed strongly the feet of Jesus. At that point, Jesus directed Mary: “Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended.” At the time Jesus directed Mary not to touch Him, she was already grabbing strongly His feet in much fear and worship. Therefore, Jesus gently told her do “not touch Me” so that she would release Him from even her relatively light touch, so that they both could move on with their own appointed tasks. Jesus was not refusing her touch, because she was already grabbling His feet. He was instructing her to now let go of her strong grasp of His feet because she was filled with fear and worship. Jesus remained gentle and kind in helping Mary let go of Him and continue on her mission to tell the other learners of Jesus that He would meet them in Galilee. In addition, Jesus may have been saying to her, you can let go now, because it will be a while before I ascend to my Father. So, I will still be present on earth before I ascend.

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