How Do You Smell?


This week we're exploring a single passage of Scripture from the Gospel of John 12:1-8: the story of Mary anointing Jesus feet in the middle of a dinner party. 

Here's the passage once again:
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Today, I'm going to be focused on the phrase, "The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." from verse 3. 

I don't know why, but I am fond of air fresheners... You know, the kind you plug into the wall, or the ones that periodically release a spritz of "smellum" into the air.  

You have to have the right fragrance, though, and a measured amount of it.  If the scent is too overpowering, your house will soon smell like a Bath & Bodyworks store, which isn't good for anyone.

When I think of Mary breaking open the jar of ointment to anoint Jesus' feet, I can't help but imagine the smell that must of have permeated the small room where he was gathered with his disciples.  The scent would have been overwhelming in such a space.  

There would have been no denying what it was that she was doing--no ignoring the extravagance of her gesture.  It would have been a shocking and pleasurable assault on the senses for the men gathered in that room.  

Perhaps, like me, it made them wonder what sort of "scent" they were dispersing out into the world, and if people who encountered them might be able to smell the fragrance of their devotion to Jesus.   

Theologian Kimberly Jackson tells the story of a student of hers who was riding home on the train after an evening worship service.  The older lady sitting next to him leaned over and said, "Son, you smell like church. You smell like church."  

The student replied that he'd only just left a church, and then the lady started to cry.  "Thank you. I haven't been to church in a long time."  

What sort of scent are we giving off to those around us?  Is it one that draws people to Jesus--the kind of scent that is beautiful and permeating, but not overpowering?  Does it speak to our devotion to Him?  

May you find ways to be fragrant with the aroma of Christ today and every day, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus be with you now and always. Amen.  

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