It was Passover week, the smell of thousands of bodies, often unwashed, in the heat of Jerusalem was overpowering.
The smell of the street vendors selling their food.
The smell of the incense in the Temple.
The smell of the animals and their manure..
The smell of fear when Jesus was before Pontius Pilate and Caliphas
The smell of execution, of gore and blood.
The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…
“As a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”Ephesians 5:2
For those who believe, this fragrance of Christ is attractive, it’s appealing, but just as some people are allergic to the perfume, the smell of flowers, to some the fragrance of Christ may not be welcome.
For some the aroma of Christ may not be the pleasant experience it was intended to be, in fact, for them it may be quite the opposite, the apostle Paul describes it this way;
“We are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life”2 Corinthians 2:15-16
In fact, just a week before his death, a dinner was given in Jesus honour.
John’s gospel tells us in chapter 12,
“Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Jesus. 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” .John 12:2-3
This lavish gift of pure nard was a fragrant oil prepared from the roots and stems of an aromatic herb found in northern India, but this gift wasn’t welcomed by all those who had gathered there that day.
One of Jesus disciples, Judas Iscariot objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?”
And yet, this gift was an expression of Mary’s love and gratitude as she was prophetically anointing Jesus in anticipation for his burial in just a few days time.
The challenge for us today, like it was for Mary, is to continue to worship allowing the wonderful fragrance of the gospel to emanate from us by our words and our deeds, even though our worship feels truncated, our churches closed, and we are missing the love and hugs of our very special church family here at St Mary’s.
The smell of new life is all around us this spring.. but it is mingled together with the smell of disinfectant and illness and sometimes death our wonderful NHS staff are facing.
After Jesus’s death, so came the joy of the Resurrection.
I thank God every day that we are facing this virus in the spring and not the winter and we can hold to the hope of Jesus conquering death as we surely will conquer Covid 19 in the midst of Holy week and Easter!
Father, Mother God, we thank you for all those working to find a vaccine especially for those in Liverpool at the frontline of research. Give them your wisdom, brood over all researchers at this time with the knowledge they are seeking.
Hold us this week, in the beauty of your scent, in the glory of your creation and in the fragrant softness of your love.