Smells affect us in different ways. In our little neighborhood, a steak grilling at the neighbor’s house makes us want to invite ourselves to dinner. The connection between memory and our sense of smell allows us to associate places and events with different scents. I like the smell of cinnamon at Christmas and watermelon in the summer, but there are certain smells that trigger bad memories and even danger, such as the smell associated with natural gas.
Mary, the sister of Lazarus in the Bible, poured her expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. She may have intended her act to be a quiet way to serve Jesus, who would soon be crucified without having anyone anoint His body after death. Mary’s simple yet extravagant act attracted everyone to Christ because of the pungent smell of the nard. Those in the vicinity would have looked directly at Jesus’ feet, which was the case with Judas. Instead of praising Mary, Judas was repulsed. Perhaps his anger stemmed from wanting others to see him as a holy person, since he suggested that Mary should have sold the perfume and given it to the poor. The Scripture passage in John 12 says he was a thief. Isn’t it revealing how people tend to blame others for the sins they hide deep down?
Though Judas had walked with Jesus, he hadn’t allowed Jesus’ message
to penetrate his heart the way Mary’s perfume permeated the room.
Had Judas chosen to learn from Mary’s act of worship, he would have experienced a sweet communion with Jesus, which could have freed him from his habit of stealing. Perhaps he would have finally experienced true grace, which he needed. Rather than trying to look perfect on the outside, Judas could have experienced forgiveness on the inside.
I recently inherited some wonderful perfume from a family member. She explained that she had found her signature perfume and now didn’t need the others. I’m so glad that she passed along the scents that were not her signature. Now I get to wear expensive perfume, even though I didn’t buy it.
Women who lead a missional lifestyle hope to intentionally attract others to Christ. Since God’s presence is the true beauty of a Christian woman, it makes sense that we should consider how we get dressed each morning. Do we wake up to spend some quality time with Jesus by reading His Word and by laying our schedules before Him as we pray? Or do we spend more time worrying about what we will wear, what we will eat, and what others will think about the way we look? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look our best—everyone is more attracted to people who look and smell nice. However, are we intentionally wearing the aroma of Christ each day?
When the essence of Christ is our signature perfume,
others should naturally be drawn to Christ when they are with us.
Strangely, in some workplaces and in other public areas, we are instructed not to wear perfume. Some people are allergic to the smell of all kinds of perfume, which might trigger an asthma attack or a migraine headache. This may seem to be an infringement on our personal choices. Yet, I would not want to do something that would detract others from being able to serve in the ways that God has called them to because of something I wear or do.
However, sometimes others are offended because we worship Jesus. Mary's act of worship offended Judas. In this case, Mary was doing what was right.
When Mary poured her expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, she did so in an act of worship, which resulted in others noticing Jesus. Our lives need to be a pleasing fragrance to Him. Second Corinthians 2:15 (NIV) says, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”
The inner beauty of Christian women should attract others to Christ. Once they see Christ, they’ll need to make a personal decision about how to respond to His love, but what a great opportunity we have to bring others to His feet.
Claudia Johnson, CWLC leadership consultant