After Peter and John leave Mary lingers at the tomb overcome with grief. Many people have sought a supernatural explanation for a lot of what goes on in this passage. It has been speculated that there was some spiritual blindness that kept Mary from recognizing Jesus and the angels and that Jesus had some ethereal body that Mary could not touch. However, this is probably not the case.
Mary was overcome with grief at the death of Christ. She is coming to grieve His loss only to find that someone had taken his body (or so she thought.) Remember that she did not believe in the resurrection, and she definitely was not looking for or expecting Jesus to appear. When the angels ask her why she is crying this probably incensed her more because it would be extremely insensitive to ask someone in a cemetery why they were crying. When Jesus asked her who she was looking for, she assumed that He was the caretaker and knew where everyone was buried. It would have been perfectly normal for someone in her state to not recognize angels or even Jesus.
No attachment to the physical
When Mary recognizes Jesus she runs to Him. The natural thought of someone in Mary’s place would have been, “I lost you once, and I am not loosing you again.” Mary would have clung to Jesus not wanting to depart from Him. The Greek word Jesus uses for “touch” literally means to attach oneself to. Jesus was not forbidding Mary from touching Him; He was telling her to not be attached to His physical presence because He was going to be leaving her again to ascend to the Father.
As Christians, we walk by faith, not sight. We have the presence of the Holy Spirit with us but not the physical presence of Jesus. Because of this, our affections are not on things below but on things above where Christ sits in the heavens (Colossians 3:1-2.) Because of this we can easily suffer the loss of all things including our own lives. We are not attached to anything in this physical world. Our attachment is to the risen and ascended Christ.
The resurrection brings joy
Jesus next appears to His disciples. His physical presence was overwhelming proof that He had actually risen from the dead. When the disciples saw Him and realized that He had risen from the dead, they were overcome with joy.
In the same way, it is Jesus’ resurrection that brings us joy. If Jesus has not risen from the dead then we are still in our sins and without hope. The fact that Jesus has risen from the dead is what gives us a complete assurance that He is our Savior and our sins are forgiven. This fills our lives with joy.
Are you holding on to and seeking the physical things? Are you trying to walk by sight instead of faith? Do you know the joy of Jesus’ resurrection?