How Do I Smell?
by Adam Howard
Content Coordinator, CBN Europe
Let me take you back. Imagine walking along the corridor of your school towards the changing rooms. With each step your nose becomes increasingly filled with a strange, but familiar aroma. You’re struggling to discern the unique mixture of fragrances until it suddenly clicks in your head. The smell of sweat and Lynx Africa deodorant.
It’s funny how a smell can transport us back to those days or stir a memory, emotion or reaction. Maybe for you it’s the smell of a loved one’s perfume or the waft of BBQ in the hazy British summer days, but this sense holds power to evoke response in us.
The Bible speaks of our prayers rising like incense (Psalm 141) and of us as a fragrant offering…pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18). Whether we like it or not, we give off an aroma when we step into the world. The question is, what do you smell like? We can cover our natural bodily smells with potions and lotions that please the nose and it is no different spiritually. We can mask our attitudes with a vast array of social niceties, but as with any type of perfume, eventually the effect will fade, and our natural scent will always come through.
There are many stories in the bible that linger in my memory, but there is one in particular that lends itself perfectly to the concept of fragrance. Luke 7:36-50 tells the story of a woman pouring perfume over the feet of Jesus. It says:
“One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume.” – v.36-38 (MSG)
What an incredible picture of extravagant worship. Everything she had flowing over her saviour. We may not have bottles of perfume to cascade over Jesus, but there is so much we can learn from this faith-filled woman about living a fragrant life.
Her heart, so overwhelmed with who was before her in that moment, the person of Jesus, that nothing else would express her love
Three ingredients for a fragrant life
Firstly, she brought the sweet scent of worship. This is perhaps one of the most extravagant examples of worship in the Bible. Her heart, so overwhelmed with who was before her in that moment, the person of Jesus, that nothing else would express her love except this physical pouring out.
Secondly, was the scent of gratitude. She had been with Jesus and had seen firsthand the miraculous take place. Her life had been transformed and her course forever altered. Luke 7:47 puts it like this, “her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown.”
And finally, she left the scent of sacrifice. Not only was this perfume expensive, but also it was her security for later life. She literally poured everything out at the feet of Jesus, holding nothing back. In John 12:4 we see the response of one of the onlookers, outraged that such a costly commodity be ‘wasted’ in such a way. We see Jesus step in and rebuke the crowd, reminding them of the ultimate sacrifice that was ahead (v7). I’m pretty sure that in the coming days, as the perfume lingered, the events of Easter unfolding, the significance of this moment would become clear.
I’ll ask the question again; how do you smell? What do you leave behind? Does your scent repel or remind?