The Risen Lord’s Matter of Interest

“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.”

John 20:15-18 NKJV

The promise of Immanuel which God promised Abraham about was fulfilled by sending the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus died He promised several times regarding the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16, He said, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” He promised that the Counsellor will abide with us forever when He comes.

After that, He went on to speak about the coming of the Holy Spirit saying, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.” In verse 18, He promised, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” Furthermore, He said, “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” By this promise, He was saying that He will go to heaven and then come back.

But this is not a prophecy about Jesus’ second coming; He was speaking about the coming of the Holy Spirit which He explained by saying, “I will come to you.” When He said “I will come to you,” we must not only think of His return, for Jesus has a great interest in sending the Holy Spirit.

When Mary saw Jesus, she said, “Rabboni!” And was about to touch Him probably. But Jesus said, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father.” What did He mean by that – do not cling to Me, for I have not returned to My Father yet. Why could not she touch Him if He has not gone to the Father? Was His body still a bit fragile that if she touched Him He would crumble like tofu? Does not it seem strange to you? Why did He tell her not to touch Him? What relation does that have with Him not yet going to the Father? We can infer.

What does Jesus say to her here? “Do not cling to Me.” He says cling. In other words, “Don’t hold onto Me. Don’t be clingy.” It does not mean to not touch Him. It means not to hold onto Him. When Jesus said He will come back, He promised that on that day He will abide with us forever. He said He will never leave us. In other words, He will become completely one with us and abide, never leave us.

Since He died and resurrected, she remembered His words of promise, and because she believed what He said, she did not want to be separated from Him and thus tried to cling onto Him. But Jesus told her that it was not just yet. It was not the time yet because He had not gone to heaven. Thus, He could not stay with them forever just yet. He said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to My Father.” The reason He said that was because, in John 16, He said He will send the Holy Spirit when He goes away. So since He has not gone to the Father, it was not the time yet. He was telling her not to hold onto Him yet because He needs to return to the Father.

Afterwards though, after He went to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, we do need to cling to Him. We need to make sure the Holy Spirit comes into us and experiences Jesus abiding with us forever. So here He is speaking of how He will send the Holy Spirit and we must receive Him. He is urging us to be completely one with the Holy Spirit, and never be separated. Be more than clingy; become one.

So afterwards, He appeared to His disciples, and breathing on them He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus’ heart and mind was filled with the intent to have them receive the Holy Spirit. Because there was work that needed to be done once they received the Holy Spirit. That was the work that Jesus left behind on this earth.

These men had not yet received the Holy Spirit. But were they not saved already? To whom does He grant the Holy Spirit? He says here in verse 17: “but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” He says His Father is their Father. ‘My Father is your Father’. They had not yet received the Holy Spirit and yet Jesus said that. Why? Because Jesus already paid the price of their sins. And these men witnessed the resurrection of Jesus and believed in Him. They had already received the word and therefore had been sanctified by the truth. Therefore, Jesus said His Father is their Father also.

This means that one does not become God’s son by receiving the Holy Spirit; if one is sanctified by the truth, he is a son. Therefore, the spirit of sonship is the word of God which was given through God’s Son. As Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit,” the word is spirit. It is the spirit of sonship.

Why are we God’s children? What makes us God’s sons? It is not because we received the Holy Spirit but because we received the spirit of sonship. Because we received the word which was given through Jesus. And then the Holy Spirit seals and guarantees that. If we misunderstand this, we would end up saying that one has to receive the Holy Spirit to be saved. ‘You have to receive the Holy Spirit to be saved.’ But regarding this matter, there are people who say the contrary. They say that if you believe in Jesus you have received the Holy Spirit. Although they have not received the Holy Spirit, they claim to have received the Holy Spirit because they believe in Jesus. These people say that because they think the spirit of sonship and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. And as I said before, there are others that interpret this differently and say that one has to receive the Holy Spirit to be saved.

If they follow that path, they will eventually say that one has to speak in tongues to be saved. As a result, they do not endeavour to be witnesses of Jesus after receiving the Holy Spirit but rather fall into a sense of security by receiving the Holy Spirit. They think they reached their goal, and that is when they begin to fall. Receiving the Holy Spirit is not for salvation. One does not become a child of God by receiving the Holy Spirit. Rather, Jesus told those who were already God’s sons, who already called God as their Father to receive the Holy Spirit.

There is a certain sister in Hainan who is being accused of heresy by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement for two reasons. One is because we believe that demons are disembodied spirits of unbelievers. Second is that in Berea, we claim that believers have to receive the Holy Spirit. They think they already received the Holy Spirit when they believed, but because we teach that believers have to receive the Holy Spirit, they accuse us of heresy.

Some people think Sungrak Church’s characteristic is receiving the Holy Spirit because we emphasize that everyone should, but it is not. Once we receive the Holy Spirit, that marks a beginning. A new wonderful world opens up when we receive the Holy Spirit and it marks the beginning of our journey of getting to know God. But in those people’s perspective, receiving the Holy Spirit in itself is already significant like a major milestone which is why they think it is Sungrak Church’s characteristic. But once you climb over that hill, there is the incredible world of the Picture of God’s Will awaiting us which we never imagined before. And once you receive the Holy Spirit, that world opens up before your eyes. The Picture of God’s Will begins to appear before your eyes and you have the task to thoroughly understand from the inside out.

Thus, although Jesus said to Mary, “Do not cling to Me,” we need to cling to Him. If the Holy Spirit has come within us, we must cling to Him so that He does not depart from us, nor be quenched inside of us, nor does His inspiration diminish. Let us pray that we will be inspired to have greater zeal than Mary so as to let the Holy Spirit manifest within us, so that we can be completely one with Him.

Father God, we thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has said that He will never leave us and will be with us forever. Please allow us to respect the Holy Spirit so that He can freely work and move within us. Just as we hold on to the Holy Spirit, please help us always be where the Holy Spirit goes and where He works. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on December 17, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team