Questions From Readers
● After his resurrection, why did Jesus tell Mary Magdalene not to touch him but commanded Thomas to touch him?—A New York reader.
The widely used King James Version gives Jesus’ words to Mary as follows: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” Then he told her to go tell the disciples about his resurrection and coming ascension. (John 20:17) Modern speech clarifies Jesus’ meaning, as we see by An American Translation’s rendering: “You must not cling to me, for I have not yet gone up to my Father.” It was not a question of her touching Jesus; she had not only touched him but was clinging to him, doubtless fearful that he would vanish and ascend into heaven. Jesus assured her that he was not going yet, and that she should stop clinging to him but go tell his disciples what had happened. That same day Jesus appeared to other disciples, but Thomas was not present and later said he would not believe it till he saw the nail wounds on Jesus and had thrust his hand into Jesus’ speared side. A few days later Jesus did appear to the disciples when Thomas was present, and he invited Thomas to touch the wounds. (John 20:25-27) In both instances Jesus had good reasons for speaking as he did, and there is no contradiction or inconsistency between the two cases.
● Why did the Mosaic Law permit the Israelites to give to the stranger anything that died of itself, though they might not eat it themselves?—Reader in California.
The question refers to Deuteronomy 14:21, which reads: “Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself: thou mayest give it unto the sojourner that is within thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto a foreigner: for thou art a holy people unto Jehovah thy God.” (Am. Stan. Ver.) In giving or selling such a carcass to a stranger or foreigner the Israelites were not to misrepresent the matter. The receiver or buyer of such wares would be acting voluntarily. He was under no obligation to buy it or accept it as a gift. There was no injustice involved; it was simply a restriction placed on the Israelites, one which other nations then did not observe. The reason why the Israelites must view the matter differently from other nations is shown by the words, “For thou art a holy people unto Jehovah thy God.”
● What is meant by the foot-washing mentioned at John 13:4-16? Does it mean that this should be performed as a ceremony by Christians?—Reader in Virginia.
In the time of Christ the people wore sandals and the feet of travelers became soiled, so that upon arriving at their destination it was necessary to wash the feet. The traveler being weary from his journey would often be shown the courtesy of having his feet washed by a servant under the direction of the host. (Luke 7:44) Servants not being usual among Christians, most of them being poor, the service was performed by the host or hostess. (1 Tim. 5:10) It was a service having much practical value in Jesus’ time. When Jesus did it he was not establishing any religious ceremony, but was setting an example. “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14, 15) He was demonstrating humility and love by performing a menial service for the comfort of his brethren; by example he made his disciples see the need of being servants in God’s organization, waiting on one another with the water of truth to aid them to walk in the clean way. (Eph. 5:25, 26) Hence Christians today should copy his example by being humble and ready to serve their brethren in practical ways, just as in Jesus’ day foot-washing was practical. Changed conditions have removed the practical benefits from foot-washing under those same circumstances, and it should not be done merely ceremonially.
● How can it be said Jesus was born 2 B.C. if the Christian era began to count from his birth?—A New Jersey reader.
When Christendom began to count the years since Jesus’ birth an error was made in the calculation. This is generally recognized, but the degree of error is disputed, some saying the era starts from four to eight years late. However, the Scriptures show Jesus’ birth as 2 B.C. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, John the Baptist began his ministry, at which time John was thirty (about April 1). Six months later Jesus was thirty. (Num. 4:3; Luke 3:1-3, 23; 1:36) That would be about October 1, in the sixteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius’ first year began August 19, A.D. 14; his fifteenth would end August 18, A.D. 29. Hence if Jesus was thirty at about October 1, 29, that means that his birth thirty years earlier must have been about October 1, 2 B.C.