“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).” (John 20:15–16, ESV)
Mary Magdalene is the first person to witness our risen Lord. She of the seven devils. She who had been cured by Jesus of demon possession. Peter and John have seen the empty tomb and have returned to explain this mystery to the other disciples. Mary stays. She still does not understand that Christ is risen. She still thinks that the body has been taken by someone. She is still looking for him.
She sees the two angels sitting in the tomb, but is so distraught and mystified as to what became of Christ’s body that she doesn’t really seem to notice that they are angels. They ask her why she is weeping. She explains. She turns around and sees a man that she takes for the gardener [no explanation is given for why she didn’t recognize Jesus, it isn’t important].
“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” The once demon-possessed woman is still devoted. She is still seeking out her master for she wants to tend to his now deceased body.
Then a single word from Christ: “Mary.”
It is all she needs. What she has not recognized with her eyes, she immediately recognizes with her ears and heart. It is the Master! And he is alive. She had seen him beaten and condemned to death. She had watched as he carried his own cross towards the place of crucifixion. She had watched a Roman soldier plunge a spear into his side. She had seen his lifeless body taken down from the cross. She had seen him placed into the tomb.
Now he stood before her alive.
Henry Alford comments: “With one word, and that one word her name, the Lord awakens all the consciousness of His presence: calling her in that tone doubtless in which her soul had been so often summoned to receive divine knowledge and precious comfort.”
The Preacher’s Commentary says: “It is then the risen Christ speaks her name—tenderly, but with all the authority of one who has conquered death, “Mary!” (v. 16). It is the Shepherd calling one of His sheep, and Mary knows the voice.”
M. S. Mills has a good summation of Mary Magdalene as the first witness to the resurrection:
Thus as Mary’s love seems to have been the first to manifest itself (v. 1), so the first Manifestation of the Risen Lord is granted to her. It confirms our trust in the Gospel narratives to find this stated. A writer of a fictitious account would almost certainly have represented the first appearance as being to the Virgin, or to S. Peter, the chief of the Apostles, or to S. John, the beloved disciple, or to the chosen three. But these are all passed over, and this honour is given to her, who had once been possessed by seven devils, to Mary of Magdala, ‘for she loved much.’