“And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” John 12:3
“Therefore, be imitators of God and walk in love as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.” Eph. 5:1-2
The sense of smell is more closely linked with emotion and memory than any other. Can you remember sitting around the Christmas tree inhaling the scent of the pine as a child? Or perhaps the perfume or cologne of your first love? How about your grandmother’s cookies? Even as we grow much older, these aromas instantly take us back in time. The fragrance burns itself into our minds and hearts.
In the New Age (which I am not endorsing), they use a term called “aura” to describe an atmosphere that accompanies someone. In the Word of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the discernment of spirits. I like to think of this as our spiritual sense of smell, which allows us to judge the character or spirit belonging to that person… in the same way you would smell the milk before drinking it. Have you ever been around someone who just creeped you out? Or someone who made you feel relaxed, joyful or loved, but you didn’t know why? You were discerning their spiritual fragrance.
People who are demon possessed, out of their mind or satanic usually smell horrific. This is not an accident. Remember, the devil is called Lord of the Flies. What do flies hang out on? …waste products, decaying and dying things. Dead things reek! I remember a story by Mahesh Chavda in his book, The Hidden Power of Fasting and Prayer where the Lord used him to cast a demon out of a boy who was self mutilating in an insane asylum. Mahesh said that when the demon came out, the most putrid odor of rotten eggs and filth came into the room. But the boy was healed! And that foul spirit had to leave!
Before I had surrendered my life to Christ, I remember this lady who would come and clean the apartment. One day she came in while I was playing worldly music with all kinds of profanity. I immediately became aware (convicted) that my music was inappropriate. She hadn’t said a word! How did this happen? She carried a fragrance that my spirit could recognize. It was the fragrance of Christ. She and I had discussions about the Lord over many weeks, and although she may never know I eventually gave my life to Jesus, I will always remember her. (She’ll find out in Heaven.)
Beloved, God wants us to diffuse the costly fragrance of His precious Son.
Let’s look at a woman whose sacrifice changed the atmosphere and earned her a place in history wherever the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached.
36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50 NKJV)
This story is remarkable in many ways. It is a picture of life, the world, and the gospel all wrapped into one. The anointing of Jesus appears in all four gospels. This story is so profound it is worthy of its own book as there are too many revelations to be covered here.
The first character sitting at the table is The Self Righteous. Simon the Leper is a Pharisee dressed in fine apparel, respectable in his community. He is watching this spectacle as a sinner touches Jesus, makes a mess on his floor, and disrupts the social norms. He is secretly judging her in his heart because in his mind… she is not worthy to be touching Jesus.
Jesus corrects him with a parable. Simon was the man who owed fifty denarii and she was the one who owed five hundred. The self righteous mindset is so busy judging others that it fails to see its own need for forgiveness. Simon was pious on the outside, obeyed the law, or so it was thought. Yet he was a leper. Isn’t this a picture of all of our true condition? No matter how hard we try to be righteous, we cannot cure our own leprosy. None of us can claim to be without sin. And only Jesus can forgive us. To the self righteous, the greatest lesson to learn is to look first at oneself and to have mercy on others. Some have committed more sins than others. The problem however becomes judgment based on personal comparison rather than God’s righteous judgment. The self righteous may find it harder to truly love God or worship with abandonment. The people at the altars truly worshiping God are often the ex gang bangers, the adulterers, prostitutes, former drug addicts, the depressed, fearful, sick, poor or indebted. They know they have been freed by the master!
The next character we see is The Critic.
In many of the gospels it says the disciples murmured against the woman. In John’s gospel we see that Judas specifically criticized the woman. The woman was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. I believe it’s accurate to say she was criticized by many people around that table. John mentions that Judas criticized Mary saying that what she had done was “a waste” and the money should have been given to the poor. On the outside, this might seem like good logic but not to Jesus. And Judas didn’t care about the poor anyway; he was a liar and a thief.
Whenever anyone gives an extravagant offering to Jesus, they will be criticized. People may not understand why you are giving your life savings to help plant a church or support an evangelist. People may look at you strangely as you hold your hands high with tears streaming down your face, bow down low or dance to the Lord during worship. People may tell you that you are foolish and unwise for quitting your job and dedicating a year to serving the Lord. Whenever a fragrant sacrifice to Christ is made, one thing is certain, the critic will certainly be there to rebuke and mock. The critics will never do anything for the Lord. Their sole purpose is to murmur against those who are.
The final character present is the one on the floor. She is The Broken Vessel.
Do you think Mary knew she was a sinner? Do you think she knew who Jesus was and what he had done for her? In John’s gospel we see that Mary takes her most precious perfume worth nearly a year’s wages and makes it an offering! What you may not have realized is this was done after Jesus raised her brother Lazarus from the dead! When she considered all the Lord had done for her, she rightly reasoned that the least she could do was offer all. EVERYTHING to Jesus! She was so broken as she wept upon his feet. She kissed and anointed them; she cleaned them with her hair; she completely sacrificed not only the costly perfume but any sense of dignity she may have had. Wow! Is it any wonder that this caught Jesus’ attention?
She earned herself a place in history forever. She pleased the King of kings. She gave it all and released a fragrance through her extravagant worship that changed the whole atmosphere. “The whole house was filled with the fragrance.” John 12:3
In order to release the fragrance of Christ, it will cost everything. Jesus went to the cross not because he felt like it or it was convenient. He did it in obedience to the Father. Looking again at the woman who broke the alabaster jar of precious oil and anointed Jesus, the Word says that this was worth a year’s wages. Think about that in present day terms. Would you give a $50,000 offering to the Lord? A $100,000 offering? What is Jesus truly worthy of?
Every true sacrifice will release an aroma. In order for precious oils to be made, olives or other herbs must be crushed. It is the crushing that releases the fragrance.
Allow the Holy Spirit to search you right now. Be completely honest before God. What are you holding back from Him? Is it your job? Is it your kids? Is it your reputation? Is it your sports car? Your vacations? Your comfort? Is it a drug addiction? An ungodly relationship? Is it your Monday night football?
Anything you love more than Jesus is an idol and needs to be sacrificed. Anything you think about more than Jesus needs to be sacrificed. Anything that interferes with your worship, devotion and commitment to Christ must go!
Now will you do it? Will you give your best, your all… irrespective of the opinions of others? Will you become the broken vessel and present your life as a living sacrifice to the King?
Then the world will smell it… the fragrance of Christ.