THE SIGN OF THE LORD’S SECRET ASCENSION TO THE FATHER
Early in the morning on the day of His resurrection, Christ went secretly to the Father. This was a secret ascension. In verse 17 the Lord told Mary the Magdalene not to touch Him, because He had “not yet ascended to the Father.” This secret ascension to the Father was the ultimate fulfillment of the going predicted in 16:5-7, and it took place forty days before His public ascension in the sight of the disciples (Acts 1:9-11). After ascending to satisfy the Father, He returned to the disciples (John 20:19). As the firstfruit of the harvest in typology was first brought to God, so the freshness of the Lord’s resurrection was first for the Father’s enjoyment.
The Old Testament type of which we are speaking is found in Leviticus 23:10-11: “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.” Furthermore, concerning the firstfruits Exodus 23:19 says this: “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God.” The firstfruits were not to be enjoyed by the people; rather, they were to be offered to God for His enjoyment.
According to Leviticus 23:11, the day the firstfruit was offered to God was one day after the Sabbath, that is, on the first day of the week. From the day the firstfruit was offered, the people were to count seven weeks (Lev. 23:15-16). The feast of Pentecost would then be held on the fiftieth day. The time from John 20 to the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was exactly fifty days. After the Lord was resurrected, He manifested Himself to His disciples over a period of forty days. At the expiration of those days, He publicly ascended to the heavens; that is, He ascended openly in the sight of His disciples. Following His public ascension, the disciples prayed for ten days, and then the day of Pentecost came.
The Lord’s secret ascension is inserted into John’s account of the Lord’s resurrection. We need to be impressed with the fact that in John’s record there is such an insertion. Immediately after the Lord was resurrected, He was ready to go to the Father. However, He was held back for a little while by the love of Mary the Magdalene. Because Mary was there seeking Him, He did not go immediately. Instead, He remained for a time to take care of this sister, who was weeping because she could not find Him. After speaking with her, He ascended to the Father.
It was a good thing that the Lord was held back. It is due to this delay that we have the revelation recorded in verse 17. If Mary had not been present, the Lord would not have had anyone to whom to speak these words: “I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” What a great revelation this is! If we did not have this word, how would we know that on the day of the Lord’s resurrection we became His brothers? We should be thankful to Mary that her love held the Lord back at least for a few minutes in order to reveal such a mystery. This word is part of the record that indicates Christ’s secret ascension to present the firstfruit of resurrection to the Father for His enjoyment.
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 60, by Witness Lee)