Consistent with art from this region and period, Mary Magdalene is shown dressed in finest, most stylish garments. Christ's robe, although simple, is of a beautiful, royal blue trimmed in gold. The flora of countryside is lush, the town in the background prosperous. In the left background, two women witness the angel and the absence of Christ in the tomb. Since John's gospel only mentions Mary Magdelene in this scene, this painting is a conflation of the gospel stories. If we read the passage for today from Luke, we learn that among the witnesses to Christ's triumph over death are Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James.
Looking more closely at this painting, the spade that Christ is holding demonstrates the comment in John that Mary Magdalene thought that the person she saw was the gardener. As in the other post-resurrection gospel passages, the risen Christ is not "known" to his faithful followers until he reveals his presence. This depiction of the "Noli me tangere", or "do not hold me" episode is moving; in it, rather than Mary Magdalene reaching for Jesus, Jesus places his hand on her. He is the active, alive, solidly present Christ, needing to quickly depart for his union with his Father. When read with the text, this painting by van Oostsanen is a beautiful, tender reminder of the deeply personal relationship that believers have with Jesus the Christ.