“Mmmmm. You smell like you. I like this.” After parenting for almost twenty years, a contented sigh and these words in the midst of an embrace never get old. I’m a wearer of perfume, and I have several favorites. But for Abby, one particular fragrance stands out. It’s her favorite on me. When she smells it, she thinks of Mom. Or as she writes it, Momma.
Years ago, when my kids were very young and I would go out of town, I followed someone’s suggestion to spray a little of my perfume on my kids’ pillows. That way, when they went to bed, they would think of me and remember that I loved them and would be back soon.
After all these years, it’s sweet to me that “my fragrance” is still important to them.
The Fragrance of Forgiveness
Fragrance holds strong significance in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God required burnt offerings to atone (or make amends) for the sins of the people. These were animal sacrifices that were burned on the altar in the Temple. They produced “a pleasing aroma, a special gift presented to the LORD” (Exodus 29:41).
This aroma signified that sin was removed and relationship with God was restored. Each time “a pleasing aroma” is mentioned in the Old Testament, it’s in conjunction with the fact that it is a “special gift to the LORD.”
God loves us and wants to enjoy a pure relationship with us. So anytime a person presented this special gift to the LORD, it was an act of love on the giver’s part, and God was pleased. It’s the same when someone we care about wants to repair a relationship with us and confesses their part in a wrong and asks for forgiveness. We delight in that.
The Fragrance of Love
In the New Testament, we read about an event where a costly, fragrant gift was the focus.
On the Saturday before Jesus was crucified (the day before Palm Sunday), He went to Bethany for a dinner held in His honor. Possibly as a thank you for raising Lazarus from the dead. Simon the Leper hosted the dinner, and Martha served. The story is told in Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:1-11.
It is here that Mary brings her special gift to her Lord.
Mary owned an alabaster jar (maybe 12 ounces) of pure nard—a thick, heavily fragrant oil. It was worth about a year’s wages.
At some point during the dinner, Mary approached Jesus and broke open her alabaster jar and spilled the oil onto His head and His feet, then wiped them clean with her hair. The Bible tells us that the house was filled with the fragrance. I wonder how long the fragrance of nard remained in Simon’s home?
Oil doesn’t wash off easily. This oil was heavy in Mary’s and Jesus’ hair. It had soaked into Mary’s skin. For several days, both carried that fragrance with them everywhere they went. Anytime their hair (or Mary’s hands) neared their noses, they inhaled the sweet fragrance of love and sacrifice …
The next day when Jesus rode a colt through the city of Jerusalem and throughout the week prior to Passover.
At the Passover Supper when Jesus bent down to wash His disciples’ feet, I’m sure His hair fell in front of His face. He smelled the lingering fragrance of the nard–and remembered. The same, as He prayed in earnest in the Garden of Gethsemane.
When He was on trial, mocked, and beaten
Even as He carried His cross and later hung there, did He continue to smell the fragrance from the week before?
I think so. All through His ordeal, Jesus carried a constant reminder of someone who loved Him. What a beautiful gift!
And sweet Mary. We don’t know if she was at the Cross, but we can be sure that she remembered her extravagant love gift as she carried out her daily duties in the days following the dinner at Simon’s house.
The Fragrance of Christ
In the same way, we carry the fragrance of Christ as we follow Him.
[God] uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)
Does a room change because you enter it? When you leave, does the fragrance of love and kindness remain?
The Gospel is beautiful. It makes our lives beautiful by the way we speak and act toward others. Because Christ changes us, people want to be around us. Although occasionally we may make people uncomfortable because we stand for truth in a dark world, our lives radiate His love.
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Ephesians 5:2)
Our love-filled lives spread the beautiful fragrance of Christ to a hurting world. They are desperate for it. When our love requires sacrifice, it is extra special to God, a pleasing aroma to Him.
Is there something in your life that you can sacrifice as a gift of love to the LORD?
Can you serve someone so that you leave a lingering fragrance of the love of Christ?
Our world is desperate for it.