I fell in love with a perfume with a pricey label.
For many years, I could purchase the scent at outlets like Perfumeria and those fabulous discount malls.
Then the company stopped distributing the product to others.
That’s when I first ventured into the Tiffany store.
I picked out the bottle. Leif gifted it for our anniversary. Whenever he smells it, he says, “That smells like you, Beautiful.”
Perhaps you have a signature scent. A perfume you adore that carries memories of you from the past, into the present, and toward the future.
Today’s #LentChallenge reading of #Beloved asks us to inhale deep.
The story begins in yesterday’s reading with Jesus raising his friend, Lazarus, from the dead.
Jesus performs many miracles, but raising Lazarus from the dead threatens the religious institutions and Roman Empire like no other.
If Jesus could conquer death, then the rulers could no longer use the threat of death to maintain their authority.
Fast forward and we catch up with Jesus right before the Passover, when he decides to stay with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.
Jesus munches and crunches with Lazarus and his disciples.
Martha busies herself in the kitchen (which shouldn’t be a surprise, because that’s the way she rolls) when Mary interrupts.
She breaks all social cues and an alabaster jar filled with pricey perfume, and anoints the feet of Jesus, wiping his feet with her hair.
Mary’s responds by worshipping what Jesus had done for her and her family in raising Lazarus from the dead.
Worship flows out of a gratitude for how good Jesus had been to her.
The gesture provides an awe-inspiring act of sacrifice and worship, but one that raises the question, What was Mary thinking?
The perfume is made of nard, a rare spice imported from northern India. Nard comes from a shrub whose leaves and shoots are cut for their sweet fragrance and processed into perfume.
To increase their profit margins and create a more affordable price point, spice traders mixed the root of the nard tree in with the shoots and leaves.
You could get the knock off nard, the equivalent of a fake Rolex or Coach bag, for only a hundred denarii a pound.
Scripture says Mary used “pure nard” meaning nothing had been added in. She gave the very best.
This is the signature scent of Mary’s offering. Mary hadn’t just given the very best; she also gave much—a full pound—a beautiful, extravagant gift, a value of 300 denarii, equivalent to a year’s wages for a day laborer.
If we estimate $8 an hour for minimum wage then the vase of perfume would cost about $16,000 dollars today.
Mary’s extravagant act reminds us that God desires a relationship born of desire rather than duty.
God longs for us to long for Him.
This is a breathtaking portrait of a woman who has beheld by Jesus and cannot contain it any longer.
Her response is worship and sacrifice—and she offers it in the form of an extravagant gift, an expression of adoration, where actions speak far louder than words.
Long after the moment passed, the scent lingers.
Staining the floor and filling the house.
The scent follows Jesus when he rode into Jerusalem.
When he enacts the Lord’s Supper.
When he washes his disciples’ feet.
When he delivers the last discourse.
When he stands before Pilate.
When gravity crushes on the cross.
The scent of Mary’s worship follows him.
What is Mary’s signature scent?
The perfume’s one word name: Beloved.
She knows who she loves and she knows who loves her.
This is the signature spiritual scent Christ invites us to wear every day.
What did you least want to read but most need to hear in today’s reading?
(If you have any questions post them below. We’ll be collecting and gathering responses for insight from New Testament scholar, Craig Blomberg in the upcoming weeks).
Day 22: John 12:1-11 Discussion Questions:
- What were the critics of Mary’s actions main concerns? Which of them were valid?
- Describe a time when you’ve done something for Christ but been criticized. How did you respond?
- Did you defend yourself or allow Christ to defend you? Explain.
- What can you do today to express unhindered worship to God?
- Using the Color Method, what stood out to you most from today’s reading?
- What do you find most challenging about today’s reading? What do you find most comforting about today’s reading?
- The Heart of Worship by Matt Redman
- Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs
- Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen