Jesus Christ continues to fascinate and, at the same time, mystify people. But this really is nothing new. Even when Jesus walked this earth, He was a mystery to most people.
In fact, He was even a mystery to His own, handpicked disciples who did not fully understand who He was and what He had come to do — that is, not until He had been crucified and resurrected from the dead.
But there was one exception. Who was the one follower of Jesus who seemed to get it when the others did not?
It wasn't John, who was known for his spiritual perception. It wasn't Peter, James, Matthew, or Andrew.
It was a woman named Mary. Above all others, Mary seemed to have an understanding of the mission of Jesus and what He had come to do.
Mary was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. It is worth noting that every time we read about her, she was at the feet of the Lord.
One of the most well-known instances was when Martha welcomed Jesus into her home in Bethany. Martha wanted to prepare a feast fit for a king. While she was frantically working in the kitchen, Mary saw a great opportunity to sit at Jesus' feet and take in what He had to say.
Martha grew frustrated and came in to rebuke her sister, but instead ended up being rebuked by Jesus. He told Martha, "You are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42 NKJV).
Later, as the days of Jesus' earthly ministry were reaching their culmination, Mary did something that was so outstanding and so significant that it is recorded in Scripture as a memorial to her (see Mark 14:9). She decided to seize the moment and once again sit at Jesus' feet and offer Him a gift, the most precious thing she probably owned.
By this time, Jesus had a number of confrontational exchanges with the religious leaders, and they wanted Him dead, plain and simple. The problem was that Jerusalem was overflowing with pilgrims who had come to celebrate the Passover. Jesus still had His admirers, and the religious leaders were afraid that if they were to arrest and kill Him, they would have a revolt on their hands.
Just days before the Passover, Jesus was in Bethany and had gone to the house of Simon the leper for a meal. We know that Lazarus was there. Mary and Martha were present, as were the apostles.
All of the sudden, Mary did something unexpected, unusual, and completely extravagant. She took some special and costly perfume, broke open the bottle, and poured it on the head of the Lord.
This perfume was called oil of spikenard, and it was most likely a valuable family heirloom. It would have been one thing to sprinkle a few drops on Jesus, which was common in that culture. But Mary wanted to do something significant. So she poured the whole bottle on Jesus.
Perhaps one reason the Christians of the first century turned their world upside down in such a dramatic way was their sense of abandon, as we see modeled by Mary. It was Jesus Himself who moved her. Her idea was that nothing was too good for the Lord. Mary wanted to do something special for Jesus.
It is interesting that she recognized why He had come. She somehow knew that His death was near. She wanted to do something that would touch Him, bless Him, and bring a little beauty into His life. She hadn't spent as much time with Jesus as the 12 disciples, yet she had a perception that no one else seemed to have. Sitting at His feet paid off, because Mary apparently had learned a few things that the others had missed.
I heard about a statue of Jesus that was created by Thors Walden, a Danish sculptor. Walden sculpted the body of Christ in such a way that His face could not be seen from a standing position. There was a sign next to the statue that read, "If you want to see the face of Jesus, sit at His feet." Sure enough, by sitting at the foot of this statue of Jesus, one can look up and see His face perfectly.
If we want to see the face of Jesus and hear His voice, then we need to do the same.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!