Let’s look at those two verses.  Matthew 28:8-9 says, “And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.” 

John 20:16-17 says, “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” 

The confusion arises when we see the Lord told Mary not to touch Him, yet we find a little later that His disciples touched Him by holding Him by the feet and the Lord did not object to that.  I believe much of the confusion will be erased by reading John 20:17 in the NKJV.  That says, “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’.”  The word ‘cling’ is also used in the NASB.  The Amplified Bible translates it as, “Do not hold me.”  What did the Lord mean by telling Mary not to cling to Him or hold Him? 

As Matthew 28:8-9 points out, the Lord shortly afterward allowed Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to hold Him by the feet as they worshipped Him.  Later that day, the Lord told Thomas to touch him.  “Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27).

In comparing these verses, I believe the answer is this…at first seeing Jesus after His resurrection, Mary Magdalene fell at His feet, and laid hold on Him, and held Him as if she meant to never let them go.  Mary had been so faithful to the Lord.  She had been healed of demon possession and traveled with the Lord, ministering to His needs. (Luke 8:2-3).  She was there at His crucifixion (Mark 15:40).  She was there when Christ was removed from the cross. (Matthew 27:57-61).  She was the first to reach the sepulcher on the first day of the week and was the first one to see the Lord alive after His resurrection. (John 20:1-16). 

It seems that in her great love for the Lord, when she saw Him alive after she had watched Him die, her natural emotions took over and she just wanted to hold on to the Lord, not wanting Him to ever go away.  He gently rebuked her, telling her that He could not stay.  He must return in bodily form to His Father.  The Lord’s spirit went to His Father at His death, as we read in Luke 23:46, “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”  However, He had not bodily returned to His Father, for His body was buried.  Here, the Lord tells Mary that He had not yet ascended to His Father in bodily form.  His resurrected body must return and could not abide with His people much longer.  Mary needed to understand that.  The Lord Jesus had told His disciples in John 16:7, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”  It was necessary for the Lord to leave so that the Spirit might come.

Mary must have understood the Lord’s meaning, for when she went to tell the disciples that she had seen the Lord, she and the other Mary saw Him and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him.  Instead of holding on to Him with a desire that He stay, she now worships Him as the risen Lord and savior who no longer could stay here.  As the Apostle Paul later said, “…we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)  (420.4)