Mary Magdalene discovers Jesus alive in the garden outside his tomb. He tells her not to touch him because he has not yet ascended to his Father. He wants her to go and tell the disciples that he will ascend to the Father, their Father, to his God, and their God.
Ascension means something specific in Judaism. For us, it's easy to think, "Oh, Jesus is gonna glow and float up to Heaven with the angels," because we don't understand it. Ascension through biblical scripture and in Jewish tradition is one of two things:
- To be taken up to Heaven in lieu of death, or
- To receive revelations and then return to the earth.
After Jesus yells, "It is finished!" on the cross, the text says that he surrenders his spirit. When the text indicates that Jesus is dead, it is from the perspective of onlookers and witnesses. From Jesus' perspective, he ascended. From an observer's perspective, he died.
For Mary, a Jewess, to hear Jesus say that he has not yet ascended would possibly remind her of ancient heroes such as Enoch and Elijah who were taken up to heaven by God without dying. And the fact that Jesus wants her to share this with the disciples indicates that he has received revelation, has been imparted information by God to give to them before he is completely taken up to the Father. So, what was it that he revealed?
The Holy Spirit, and the power given to them to forgive sins.
At least that's what the text says, but what do I know?