After his resurrection, Mary meets Jesus and tries to touch him. He stops her and says that He has not returned to the father. Later on we read that Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wounds. To my knowledge, Jesus still has not returned to the Father. Can you please explain the two situations?
The first event involving Mary Magdalene and Jesus occurred in John 20:17.
Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'” (NASB) John 20:17
The Greek word that is translated as “clinging” is HAPTOU. It has the idea of “to cease clinging,” “grasping tightly,” or “to stop fastening on to.” That is, Jesus did not tell her not to touch Him. She was preventing Jesus from moving or leaving and Jesus let her know that He must leave. The issue is not about touching, but that He could not remain. Notice that in Matthew 28:9 the women were holding onto Jesus’ feet.
And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. (NASB) Matthew 28:9
The meaning of the Greek word translated as “took hold of.” They were on their knees, and holding His feet in act of worship. Yet, Jesus did not tell them to “not touch” or to stop. Mary was attempting to prevent Jesus from leaving. So, Jesus told her that He would have to leave eventually and return to the Father. He would not be staying on the earth. He would be returning to heaven where He belonged. A. T. Robertson states, “Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness.”
This explains why Jesus did not object to Thomas touching His wounds (John 20:26-29). Thomas was not attempting to prevent Jesus from leaving. He was only seeking proof that Jesus had truly returned to life.
I can understand Mary wanting Jesus to remain with her and never leave. She loved Him dearly, but so did many others. Jesus had to help her understand that He was not like her. He had been God in human flesh. Now He was God who appeared to her as human. Some day soon, He would return to heaven, and He did in Acts. 1:9-11.
1. A. T. Robertson. Word Pictures in the new Testament. Baker Book House. 1960. vol. v. p. 312.