A friend of mine believes that Jesus was a spirit after His resurrection, and he quoted Jesus’ words in John 20:17, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” What is your position?
The Gospels give no suggestion that Jesus was a spirit after He was resurrected. On the contrary, He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27). Luke reports of the same occasion, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). After His resurrection, Jesus ate with them, talked with them, walked with them, lifted up His hands and blessed them–-none of these things would have been possible if He had been a spirit.
Why did Jesus say “touch me not”? These are among the words Jesus spoke to Mary on the morning after the resurrection. The King James Version of the passage is not as clear as some other versions. For example: “Do not hold me”(TCNT); “Cease clinging to me” (Moffatt); “Do not hold on to me” (NIV); “Be not detaining me” (RHM). The New English Bible reads, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers, and tell them that I am now ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”
A footnote in the New Catholic Edition of the Bible suggests that Mary, in her joy, had cast herself at Jesus feet. “But he tells her not to delay thus, ‘But go tell my brethren’” A footnote in the Scofield Reference Bible gives a similar thought: “that He merely meant: ‘Do not detain me now; I am not yet ascended; you will see me again; run rather to my brethren,’” etc.
The fact that Jesus told them not to tarry or delay seems to explain the meaning of Matt. 28:9 where the disciples “held him by the feet, and worshipped him” It was their way of expressing their extreme joy at seeing Him and their wish for Him to remain with them.
When Jesus said, “Touch me not,” it seems that He was really saying to Mary that she should not delay Him, they should not spend time worshipping Him because soon He would be going to the Father. Rather she should go and tell the good news to the rest of the disciples, so that no time be wasted.