Why does the Bible say that Mary could not touch Christ after His resurrection?
Many people completely misinterpret John 20:17. The KJV’s translation does not clearly reflect the meaning of Mary’s encounter with Jesus. The KJV said, “do not touch me for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” Many incorrectly assume that Jesus is saying that He cannot be touched. We know this is not the meaning of this passage because a few verses later in John 20:27, Jesus asks His disciples to touch Him, feel the wounds and even put their hand in the wound in His side so that they will believe that He has truly resurrected bodily from the dead.
In John 20:17, the word ‘touch’ comes from the Greek word ‘haptomai’. Haptomai means: to fasten one’s self to; adhere to; or cling to. When Mary recognized Jesus, she embraced Him with such emotion that Jesus said not to cling because he has not yet ascended. When I read this passage, I imagine that this was a joyful encounter by Mary and Jesus. Mary and Martha were extremely close to Jesus while He was alive and Mary has at last seen that death did not have a hold of Jesus. When she realized it was Him, she embraced Him and did not let go. I picture Jesus laughingly saying, “Stop clinging, I haven’t yet ascended”. No that she has seen, Jesus instructed her to go and tell the other disciples that He was alive and is coming to see them as well. This is confirmed in Matthew 28:5-9
5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.
Notice that Matthew gives additional details that indeed confirm that the women did in fact touch Jesus and were holding him by the feet. Thomas was invited to touch Jesus’ hands and side to resolve his doubts about the resurrection. It is not possible for Jesus to be corrupted or made unclean; therefore, there is no concern with anyone touching Him before His ascension.