Many people, when asked their opinion on which of our five senses is least important, name our sense of smell. But smells are important! They can delight (freshly baked bread), repel (rotting garbage), comfort (lavender), or warn us (smoke). We often find that even a subtle scent can unlock a buried memory from years ago.
In today’s Bible reading, a scent was powerful enough to create a lasting memory for Jesus and His disciples. John 12 describes a dinner being given in Jesus’ honor. His friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus appear to be the hosts (vv. 1–3). Unexpectedly, Mary poured a pint of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair (v. 3). So intense was the scent that the entire house was filled with the fragrance (v. 3).
Mary was keenly aware of what Jesus had done for her family (see John 11:43). Nothing would be too expensive for the One who had raised her brother from the dead. In humility, she was demonstrating her honor and devotion to her Lord. Judas objected, saying that the perfume was valued at a year’s wages and could be better used to help the poor. To which Jesus replied, “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial” (v. 7).
This scene has another layer of significance. Mary was anointing the King for His entry into Jerusalem on the following day and preparing Him for burial (vv. 7, 12–13). Jesus alludes to His burial in verse 7, reminding everyone that His time on earth was brief and should be valued. It would not be long before Mary would go to Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body (Mark 16:1).
>> Mary probably had no idea of the deep significance of her actions, but her actions demonstrated her whole-hearted devotion to Jesus. Jesus isn’t asking you to understand everything that He is doing through you. He desires your devotion to Him.
Give us hearts fully devoted to You; may we seek Your glory above our own dignity and interests. After all, our dignity is sealed in You, and we trust You to look after our interests. You are worthy of all praise!