"Smells are surer than sounds or sights / To make your heart-strings crack."
Several days ago, I was walking through Walmart with my daughter. It was a busy Saturday and the aisles were teeming with people doing their weekend shopping. I pushed my cart along, cautiously making my way through the crowds lest I crush a toe or small child darting about. Suddenly, I was overcome by the scent of someone’s perfume. I couldn’t see how it was, but this person had left a cloud of fragrance in their wake. It smelled exactly like my Grandma. She passed away almost a year ago, and with one simple inhale, I was whisked back to her embrace.
In John 12:1-8, powerful scents tell us a story. On the heels of Lazarus’ death and resurrection through which the “stench of death” is removed the resurrecting Spirit of God, Jesus reclines at the table of his friend’s Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. No doubt, the scent of dinner fills the air as they fellowship and dine together.
Suddenly, a new scent fills the air. A hush falls on the group gathered as Mary kneels at Jesus’ feet and pours costly perfume on Jesus feet, paradoxically anointing him as king even as she prepares him for burial. The fragrance is overpowering. Even so, those watching gasp as Mary covers and unbinds her hair and uses it to wipe Jesus’ feet dry. So scandalous. The intimacy of the act, the extravagant use of the valuable resources, the indignant response of Judas.
As much as we want to identify with Mary and her extravagant outpouring of love, I am uncomfortable to find myself often on the side of Judas: practical, uneasy with what feels so wasteful, perhaps even harboring ulterior motives as easily captured as I am by the false god of security and ease.
What if we surrendered to the economy of the Kingdom of God? What if we held nothing in reserve and poured ourselves out for the sake of our Savior? What if we stopped professing Jesus as King and started living under his authority and rule? Imagine the fragrance of our obedience rising up to God and saturating the world around us.
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Grace and Peace.