Smells of Worship, 5th Sunday of Lent

Written by Joel on April 6th, 2010

Mar 21, 2010
5th Sunday of Lent
John 12:1-8


It is tax season once again, and some of you may have already gotten those large lump-sum tax refund checks. Understanding the tax code and filling out those forms was easy, the truly difficult part was figuring out how to spend it! You might save it, invest it, get something you really need, but how many of you (and I won’t ask for a show of hands here), but how many of you like splurge it? Thats okay to admit, as human beings it is sometimes simply natural to skip thinking and just act – to splurge and not care what anyone thinks about it. Our Gospel lesson today is a story about how one woman spent excessively, without thinking about it – on Jesus.

Mary, one of Lazarus’ sisters, expressed an quite costly act of devotion toward Jesus. She anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume, but not just Chanel number 5. As Judas points out for us a 300 denarii bottle of perfume. To put that in a bit of perspective for us, one denarii was the standard daily wage for a laborer in Jesus’ day. In modern dollars, at minimum wage for an 8 hour day 300 denarii is about $17,400. What would you do with that much money? Pour it out, onto someone’s feet?

This was about more than just money. This was an act of worship – an act of devotion for Jesus. This account is a vivid reminder that worship is more than something that happens in our heads; worship is more than the hymns we sing, the building we visit, the pew we choose, or the people we see. It is a full and complete devotion to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It was extravagant worship.

It was personal – she chose to do so as an individual; Intimate – her closeness to Christ.

It was physical (evoked the senses) – Down to the last strand of her hair. Particularly the sense of smell.

Flowers and death.

Not too long ago (just a few verses in scripture), Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead. When Jesus arrived on the scene (four days after Lazarus’ death) they were afraid to remove the stone because the smell of death would have been overpowering. I can’t help but think the stench of death lingered still in this scene. And this bottle of expensive perfume was left-over from Lazarus funeral because it was customary to anoint the dead. In fact, it was the raising of Lazarus which was the straw which broke the camels back – this event was the reason the Pharisees began to plot Jesus’ death. Mary, in this act of worship, knew what was in store for Jesus. He was on his way to his death, and mary in this act of worship was anointing him as a dead man. This was a courtesy he would not receive because he will be sentenced to death as a criminal – criminals were not anointed. What a contrast – sitting in the midst of a dead man raised to life, Jesus now faces and prepares for his own death on the cross.

Mary knows it, and with this costly oil worships him, with the fullness of herself – worships him. When words will not do – worships him with extravagance.


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