"Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " (John 20:17)

Jesus is speaking to Mary, after Mary finally realizes it is Jesus standing behind her.
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means "Teacher"). (John 20:14-16)
We discussed why Mary didn't recognize Jesus with the previous verse. Even after Jesus spoke to her and she had seen him, she still thought that he was the gardener. It is because Jesus was not appearing in his physical body. He had already left his physical body at the time of death:
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
But now Jesus is telling Mary not to hold on to Jesus, telling her, "for I have not yet ascended to the Father." What does this mean?

The first phrase, μή μου ἅπτου is being translated to "do not hold on to me."

The word μή means "no" or "stop" or "don't"

The word ἅπτω means "to fasten to" "adhere to" "to fasten fire to a thing" - and also "cling to" according to its typical usage

The word μου is a pronoun referring typically to the possessive, "my" or "mine"

Thus what we have is something to the effect of:

"Don't cling to me" (as is translated in the New King James Version and a few others).

Note that "Do not hold on to me" is not a bad translation. But "Don't cling to me" helps to understand what Jesus is referring to in terms of "holding on to." He isn't talking about her not taking shelter of him and his teachings - which is what the followers of Jesus do.

In fact, Mary was one of Jesus' most dedicated followers. This is evidenced by the fact that she "cried out" "Rabboni" - meaning Rabbi or Teacher. She was not only accepting Jesus as her teacher, but she had a fervent dedication and attachment to him.

But part of this attachment - as Jesus is indicating - was the attachment she had to his physical presence. She had been his ardent follower and now Jesus' physical body had died, and he was reappearing to her eyes in another, angelic form.

And he was telling her to let him go - with regards to his physical form and physical appearance.

It was practically a chastisement, in response to her being so excited when she realized it was him. But as are all the spiritual teacher's chastisements, it was said with love and a concern for her. Jesus understood the pain of separation, and he wanted to prepare her for physical separation from him as he "ascended to the Father."

Now just what does this mean?
"'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
It is clear that Jesus had left his physical body, yet had not left the physical world yet. He had yet to enter the spiritual realm - and he is telling them that he will be leaving the physical world and returning to the spiritual world to be with the Supreme Being.

The word "ascending" - translated from the Greek word ἀναβαίνω (anabainō) - does mean to ascend or rise up. While the spiritual realm is not exactly "up" as in up in the clouds or in the stars - it is referred to as "up" or "ascended" because it is a higher - purer - realm of consciousness and existence compared with the physical body and physical world. The physical world is a place of darkness, where our spiritual form and our spiritual eyes are covered by these gross physical bodies.

Jesus is telling Mary, and telling Mary to pass on to Jesus' other disciples, that his body has died and he is still alive. Why was this a big deal?

For a spiritual teacher who has instructed his students for years that there is another dimension - and in that other dimension there lives the most beautiful and loving Supreme Person - this is a big deal.

Why? Because we cannot see into this spiritual realm with these physical eyes. Nor can we see God with these physical eyes. We - and Jesus' disciples - have to trust Jesus' teachings that God really exists and that the spiritual realm really exists.

So it was important to Jesus that his students know that there is life after death and that the spiritual realm does exist.

And this of course brings up the question of why, if God exists, and the spiritual realm exists, can we not see them with our gross physical eyes? And if God is truly the Supreme Being - all powerful - why won't He prove He exists?

It is in fact this very issue that has caused modern science to reject the existence of the Supreme Being. Because there is not observational evidence - no definitive proof that God exists - then He must not. Right?

Wrong.

Yes, it is true that we cannot see the Supreme Being with these gross physical eyes. Nor can we see into the spiritual realm with these physical eyes.

In fact, they were not designed to see the spiritual realm. They were not designed to see God.

The physical eyes, in fact, are not designed to see very much at all. They can see only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum, let alone another dimension. Our eyes cannot see anything too small, nor anything too big. They cannot see very far either. Our eyes can see maybe two miles or so - depending upon the nature of what we are looking at. Yes, we can see stars from billions of miles away, but we are only seeing a small dot of light. We are not seeing the actual star in detail. Yes, we can expand vision with instruments, but even those instruments are limited.

The fact is, the eyes were designed to see only within a particular atmosphere and within certain specifications. Beyond that, we are blind.

So it is pretty bold to say that just because our eyes cannot see God He doesn't exist.

Nonetheless, that is the status quo among most modern scientists who reject God's existence.

But the real point is that the Supreme Being actually designed the physical world and these physical eyes in such a way that they cover us. They prevent us from seeing who we are and seeing into the spiritual realm.

We have been, in other words, blinded. Why?

Because we rejected the Supreme Being and wanted to get away from Him. We wanted our freedom. We wanted to enjoy ourselves and have no responsibility to the Supreme Being. We didn't want to love and serve Him - we wanted to love and serve ourselves.

You see, the spiritual realm is that place where God is the center. Everyone revolves around Him. Everyone is focused upon Him. Everyone loves Him and everyone has a unique relationship with Him.

But this love is not forced. Everyone chooses to love Him. Love requires choice. What good would love be if there were no choice? If we were forced to love God that would not be love would it?

So the Supreme Being gave us the choice to love Him or not. Those who don't want to love Him don't have to. They are given a place where they don't have to see Him. They don't even have to acknowledge His existence.

One of the central questions about existence that we ask (besides Who am I?) is: Why am I here?

This is why we are here: To escape our relationship with God. This is the purpose for the physical world, and why we have arrived here. This is the world that reflects choice and the choices we have made in the past to reject our relationship with God.

This is what the physical world is. This is the world that reflects choice and the choices we have made in the past.

Here we are not able to see God because we didn't want to see Him - and we can make our current choices with complete freedom. With no force whatsoever.

After all, if we could see God then how could we deny His existence?

And it is for this reason that the science of observation can support the notion of God not existing. To give us the complete choice of deciding whether we want to be with Him or not.

This notion is also called "blindedness" in scientific research. Today, research where the person can see what medicine they are being given is not acceptable. The subjects must be "blinded" to what they are taking, so they will not be influenced. When a study is "double-blinded" it means the doctor is also not aware of whether they are giving the drug or the placebo.

The Supreme Being is the ultimate Scientist. But He is not testing us like guinea pigs. He is giving us the ultimate choice of loving Him or not. In order for us not to be unduly influenced in this decision, He covered us with these physical bodies and physical minds - which is like a hard drive with its data erased in the beginning. These elements - the gross physical body and the subtle covering of the mind - both are designed to completely shield us from His existence - giving us the ultimate freedom of choice.

It is this precise element that relates to why there is suffering in the physical world as well.

Many will ask: If God exists, why is there so much suffering in the world? Why are some children born into suffering - starvation, villages being burnt and so on? Does God not care about some people?

Or rather - does God care more about some people than others?

The issue once again is choice: For there to be love there must be choice.

And for there to be choice, there must also be consequences relating to choices. If there were no consequences to our choices, then what would the purpose of choice be?

Let's say that a person chooses to build a house. If there was no consequence to this choice and those actions that resulted in the building of the house - namely a house - then what would the purpose be in building a house? If the person worked so hard to build the house and the house wasn't there - then that would eliminate the very choice being made.

In the same way that there is choice to make actions with positive consequences, there is also choice to make actions with negative consequences. A person who chooses to, for example, steal from someone, should at some point suffer the consequences of that action. If they didn't, then we might say there was no order or design in the world.

But people do suffer the consequences of their actions, good and bad. This is easily seen when people go to jail for committing crimes. The jail is one of the consequences of those choices.

And what consequences are not rectified in this lifetime - they are rectified in a successive lifetime.

Otherwise it would be completely unfair that some people are born into a poor family with starvation while others are born into rich families. Is it the luck of the draw? For those who choose not to acknowledge the Supreme Being, it is easy to explain this: It is just all chance.

But for those who choose to acknowledge God, they must accept that there is a good reason that some people suffer from birth. It is a consequence of their previous choices made in a previous lifetime.

Otherwise, we would be saying that God is not fair.

Or they are - as many Christian institutions teach - saying that God is not in control. That there is this person - satan - who has taken control over the world and that is why there is suffering.

But this is not believing in God - as omniscient. This is believing that God has lost control - which means they do not accept an omniscient God as Jesus taught. God means omniscient. If they don't believe in an omniscient God they do not believe in God.

The bottom line is that we must accept, as Jesus taught, that if we don't "ascend" to the spiritual realm after this lifetime is over, then we must face the consequences of the choices made in this lifetime in another lifetime.

The fact that Jesus taught this is evidenced in his disciples' question when they came upon a man who was born blind:
His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)
Obviously Jesus' disciples accepted that the man existed in a previous lifetime before this one - otherwise how could he have done something that resulted in him being born blind?

And since Jesus' disciples accepted that a man's actions can result in consequences that spill over into the next lifetime - then we can know that Jesus also taught this. What the disciples were asking was the particular situation with this particular person. They already accepted that people's choices in their previous lifetime affect their current lifetime.

And this is why children are born into starvation or wealthy families. It relates to their previous lifetime. They are experiencing the consequences of the choices made in their previous lives.

In other words, the Supreme Being does not cause the suffering that exists in the physical world - we do. We are the cause of our own suffering. Our choices made in the past have caused our current situation.

What the Supreme Being did is simply design the physical world with consequences - good and bad. This was necessary to truly give us choice - because consequences are required for there to be choice.

This is also why Jesus' body was murdered. One might ask: Why did God let the body of His confidential loving servant die on the cross? Was He sacrificing Jesus to cleanse our sins?

Certainly not. If God cleansed the consequences of our actions - including sins - then that would take away our freedom of choice and consequence.

And God does not need to sacrifice anyone to pay for our sins anyway. God is the Supreme Being - the Omniscient Being. He does not have to follow any rules of sacrifice. If He wanted to cleanse our sins He could do that with one thought.

What happened to Jesus again relates to choice. The Supreme Being is giving everyone choice. He gave Jesus the freedom to love Him and serve Him or not. Jesus could have run away from the arrest and not been crucified. But He chose to out of his love for the Supreme Being. He chose to stand up for his teachings - and show us just how important those teachings (and his service to God) are.

As for the Supreme Being - the reason He allowed people to murder Jesus' body was because again - He is giving each person the ability to hear from His representative or reject His representative. Those who don't want to hear from His representative also have the choice to offend Him and prevent His representative from speaking. They can even hurt God's representative. That is their choice.

But again, those choices have consequences.

The bottom line is that because of Jesus' choices - to love and serve the Supreme Being - he was going home. He was returning to the spiritual realm where God and God's loving children enjoy loving service relationships. That place where the freedom to love God is expressed with fulfillment.

Because each of us was created to love and serve the Supreme Being we are fulfilled when we make that choice to love and serve the Supreme Being. It is like a fish and water. If you take the fish out of water the fish will flop around and die. You might even try to give the fish some great food or even a big-screen TV or a fancy car - but the fish will still gasp for air and die. But if you put the fish back in the water, the fish is back in his element.

The spiritual world is our element. This is why we are always looking for true love. This is always why we are looking for a soul mate - someone we can love and serve who will love us completely. We are looking for the Supreme Being. The Perfect Person. God is that Perfect Person we are always looking for. Why would we look for a perfect person if that person didn't exist?

This is what Jesus was communicating to Mary. He didn't want Mary to cling to his physical presence - Jesus wanted Mary to cling to the Supreme Being. He wanted Mary - and the rest of his disciples - to follow his teachings so they could ascend as he was ascending - "to my God and your God."


(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus  - translated from the original Greek texts.)