Big Boy was already in bed, and Little Boy was about to follow. I picked him up and rubbed my face in his tummy – a sure-fire way to make him laugh. It got the usual response – hysterical chuckling. He was wearing a just-washed babygrow, and as I breathed in, the smell instantly reminded me of a deodorant I used back in my teenage years. We’ve not changed our wash powder recently, it’s not like I’d not smelt clean clothes before, but something about it just took me back. I even got as far as being in the shop where I bought it. I can’t remember what the deodorant was called (though I do remember it was a roll-on) and I can’t remember what the shop was called either. But the smell takes me back all the same.
Smells do that, don’t they. They have the power to transport us in our minds to other places, and bring back mental pictures of people, events, and so many other things.
Rain on dusty earth is one of my favourites. I love rain. When it rains after a dry period, it takes me back to the smell from my childhood. Rain on a dusty land wasn’t that unusual back in Pakistan, where I grew up. And maybe the rain brought with it a sense of hope for growth and refreshment. I love sitting on a patio or veranda and watching the rain come down. To me, it’s a reminder of God’s work – rain coming to help everything grow.
How about this passage from John?
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
There’s Jesus, sat down at a dinner party thrown in his honour, when Mary comes up and does this amazing act. She cracks open this bottle of perfume (later in the passage we read it was worth about a year’s wages) and pours it on Jesus’ feet. Now, I don’t want to get into the money side of things at the moment. I want you to think about the smell. What does the passage tell us? “…the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume”
Mary’s act filled the house. No-one there could fail to notice it. No-one could carry on their business in the house, whether as guest, servant or owner, without being aware of Mary’s act. Those who were sat there were immersed in the fragrance of Mary’s act, her sacrifice. That got me thinking – what have I done for Jesus that comes anywhere close to this? Don’t get me wrong – I know that elsewhere there are passages which encourage us to serve Him without having to be ‘seen’ doing it, and to serve Him without worrying about reputation. But I think this passage is different. It shows that Mary was willing to do something big and something public to show her love for her Lord.
What about us?
What have we done that’s filled a place with its fragrance?
What actions could we take that overwhelm people with a realisation of our love for Him?
What sacrifice could we make for Him?