The beautiful fragrance of Jesus
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
2 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV 1984)
Have you ever noticed how a particular smell can cast your mind back to a distant memory?
My very first teacher in primary school wore a very pungent perfume. Now, whenever I smell something similar my mind is right back there in primary school and my lovely teacher.
Fragrance takes centre stage in the story of Mary of Bethany, which we can read about in John chapter 12.
Mary, her sister Martha, and brother Lazarus were devoted followers of Jesus. One night a dinner was laid on, in Jesus’s honour. The disciples were invited too. During the course of the evening Mary did something extraordinary and beautiful, but controversial. She broke open a box of pure nard, a very expensive perfume, and poured it over Jesus’s feet. One of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, complained about the extravagance of such an act, but Jesus rebuked him.
Perhaps Mary knew that Jesus’s death was imminent (this was six days before the Passover). The disciples however never seemed to pick up on this, even though Jesus had spoken to them about it several times. They just didn’t seem to get it! Mary’s devotion to her Lord is in evidence here, with her gift of the perfume that Jesus said was for his burial (v. 7).
The fragrant perfume became a blessing to everyone in the house that night (v. 3). When our lives are fully devoted to Jesus this will leave a lingering effect on the people we come into contact with. Some perfumes will lose their potency when left too long, but the fragrance of Jesus is new and beautiful every day. It will be a blessing to many, just as Mary’s fragrant perfume was, in that house, so long ago.
Fragrance features many times in the Bible. The Song of Solomon is a beautiful story of love and sweet smelling perfumes, oils and spices. Of course, this story also points to Christ and the Church and the extravagant love he has for us.
Whenever we inhale a lovely fragrance, let it be a reminder for us to leave behind the beautiful and gracious fragrance of Jesus wherever we go. A sweet smelling aroma well pleasing to God.
Eternal Father, thank you so much for the gift of your son Jesus Christ. Let our knowledge of him be a fragrance we wear as a blessing for others.
In his name we pray. Amen.
Study by June Burrows
About the writer:
June Burrows attends the Southampton congregation of Grace Communion International
Hythe & Dibden Parish Hall
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