Articles & Resources

An Encouraging Word: A Sweet Aroma

Jun 02, 2021 | By Barb Oliver
"Then Mary took a pound of very expensive perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume." John 12:3

As I took my seat in the meeting, I caught a slight whiff of pleasantry. Hmm, what am I smelling? The scent disappeared just as quickly as it surfaced, and I was able to focus on the agenda at hand. A window in the room was open, and a little while later, I felt a slight breeze pass through the room. There it was again, that fragrance, what was it? It did seem to stir within me, even to the point where I felt pretty warm, as if I needed to step out of the room to get a breath of air, a drink of cool water. Why am I feeling so faint?

I returned to the meeting room and felt fine. But the woodsy, aromatic fragrance of sweet basil, musk, and mandarin orange, kept me from concentrating! That scent is familiar. Then it came back to me; the pleasantry, but also nausea. The aroma transported my mind to another place, another time.

I am not alone! Many of us have had experiences where a particular smell floods our brain with a distinct memory, event or location associated with specific emotions. It could be salty beach air, yummy fresh baked bread, chocolate chip cookies that remind us of a memorable vacation, or Mom's baking calling us home.

You may recall another incident where a robust and distinctive aroma caused quite a reaction from the people in the room. Jesus and the disciples arrived in Bethany at the house of their friends, Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Martha, offering Jesus a labor of love through serving, was busy readying the food and the table for dinner, and Lazarus was one of the men reclining at the table. Mary was there listening (John 12:1-8). Compelled by her love for Jesus, Mary pours out her costly perfume, spikenard, on His feet. Judas was angry, claiming a waste of expensive perfume that she could have sold and the money given to those in need. This essential oil, which clings to skin and hair, had a unique fragrance and was the very best perfume around. In the Song of Solomon (1:12) this pure nard was used between a bride and groom to signify their undying love for each other.

Not surprising then that among all those who followed Jesus, Mary was so drawn to Him to anoint His feet, to pour out onto Jesus her unfailing love. She had come to know and love Jesus with such a pure heart and deep affection that she was able to humble herself by demonstrating before all to see her commitment to Him. How did Mary come to this point? How could she forget herself, forget the cost of the perfume, and forget she was on display before her family and the disciples to act in such a vulnerable manner?

Her response was spontaneous, transparent, and unadulterated! She had spent so much time with Jesus, had become so close to Him, and had developed such an intimacy with the Son of God, that her actions could not be stopped. And His love for Mary was just as apparent.

When Judas rebuked Mary for wasting such an expensive jar of perfume (John 12:4-5), Jesus was quick to intervene: "Leave her alone…it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial" (John 12:7). Only Jesus knew in a short time He would be arrested, tried, and crucified. Perhaps He could inhale that precious fragrance, that gift of Mary anointing His feet, and recall why He was here and what he would endure in a few short days. It was the cross! Sweet Mary was the first to anoint the Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29). She anointed his body with fragrant oil.

The Old Testament describes the scent of burnt offerings as an "aroma pleasing to the Lord" (Numbers 28:27). The Hebrew word for burnt offering means to "ascend," "to go up in smoke." The smoke from the sacrifice ascended to God, "a soothing aroma to the Lord" (Leviticus 1:9). The sacrifices were to renew the relationship between sinful man and Holy God.

Mary didn't know the significance of her humble act of love in anointing the feet of the Lamb of God. She couldn't realize the fragrance of the oil would trigger His memory toward the cross. "For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Has your love for Jesus waned? Is it time to sit again at His feet? Our love for Him will not grow unless we spend time with Him, listen to His voice, and experience His love for us. Talk to Him, have honest conversations with Him, pour the sweet fragrance of your heart onto Him.

I was sitting in the meeting, and now it came to me! I could identify the cologne of the man next to me. Remembering back to the first time I stood at a counter and purchased Ralph Lauren's Blue Polo, men's cologne. The first time I took a whiff of that blue bottle. Unexpectedly the fragrance triggered my thoughts to an unfailing love. My beloved of 28 years had passed away, and this was the gift I gave him for our wedding—to me a reminder of a sweet aroma of undiminished love.

Don’t let your love for Jesus fade, or be slack in your relationship with Him. Pour out the sweet aroma of your eternal love for Him day by day.