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John 20:17 (NASB)

“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 am ascending to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” ‭‭John‬ ‭20:17‬ ‭

What does “ascend to the Father” mean here, and why does Jesus ask Mary to share these specific words with His disciples? Why would they be comforted to know that He ascends to the Father if they have not yet seen Him and do not even know that He is risen yet? Why is that He tells Mary He has not ascended, but then immediately tells her to tell the disciples that He ascends?

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New International Version John 20:

17 Jesus said, “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.’”

‘I am ascending
Ἀναβαίνω (Anabainō)
Verb - Present Indicative Active - 1st Person Singular

The Greek present tense indicates continued action, something that happens continually or repeatedly, or something that is in the process of happening.

Jesus was telling Mary that he had an important appointment with the Father in real-time.

Jesus had risen, Matthew 12:

40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus had just ascended from the heart of the earth to the surface of the earth and was in the process of ascending higher. He didn't want Mary delaying this process of the first ascension after the crucifixion.

What does “ascend to the Father” mean here?

Ascend from the heart of the earth to the surface of the earth, then to the highest heaven to see the Father.

Why does Jesus ask Mary to share these specific words with His disciples?

To share the good news of his ascension.

Why would they be comforted to know that He ascends to the Father if they have not yet seen Him and do not even know that He is risen yet?

Mary had seen Him. Mary was the witness to them.

Why is that He tells Mary He has not ascended, but then immediately tells her to tell the disciples that He ascends?

He was in the process of ascension. It was not finished yet.

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  • Thank you for the detailed answers to all my questions!
    – Gremosa
    Oct 8 at 14:42
  • You're most welcome. Happy to do it :)
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 8 at 14:48
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Jesus is simply stating what is going to happen next. He is finally going to the Father to finish the whole journey begun with his holy conception. He tells Mary that she should not worry or cling to him - hold him back from this final stage.

Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father

Jesus death had finished the process of salvation. His new life and exaltation was his reward for doing a great job. He would present himself to God as the wavesheaf offering picturing the new harvest. Jesus being the first fruit, the firstborn from the dead. Col 1:18

He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it Lev 23

Notice the alignment of the time - Jesus rose late Saturday, this is now Sunday, the day after the Sabbath.

The plan for Jesus is totally laid out by the Father through the type of every OT prophecy that points to what Jesus needed to accomplish, how and certainly when - God doesn't need to be late for anything! Certainly not this!

The wavesheaf offering practiced for centuries was only a 'shadow' - now that the REAL THING, Jesus, is here and ready, he must go.

Him finalising the Death - burial - rising sequence is this initial 'going to the Father'. He has a reward and exaltation to receive to go with his new eternal life.

Meeting with the disciples is secondary to this momentous occasion of going to the Father.

They would be comforted - only slightly at first, but gently prepared for him being with them again in person. All that he had told them was coming to fruition - bit by bit.

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 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended [ἀναβέβηκα] to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending [ἀναβαίνω] to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” (John 20:17, ESV)

ἀναβέβηκα - perfect, active, indicative, 1st person singular.

We can take the perfect tense here to mean Christ's ascension was not yet a past action, but Jesus' intention was to stay ascended, remain with the Father.

ἀναβαίνω - present, active, indicative, 1st person singular.

Yes, the combination of tenses is interesting here because the present tense gives the indication that the ascension right then was a continuing action. Perhaps because Jesus continued to appear to his disciples until his final ascension before Pentecost (Acts 1).

Thanks for motivating me to look deeper into the tenses here.

For more information about the verse look at the answers to the questions in this search: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/search?q=user%3A22715+john+20+17

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