Cross Walk Devotional: What Love Smells Like

The smells from the kitchen make the mouth water. The scents of rotisserie lamb, freshly baked bread, and aromatic spices waft into the hall where the guests have gathered into a cozy gaggle.

The invitees include Simon, a leper Jesus has healed; Lazarus, a dead man Jesus raised; the disciples who have left everything to follow him; Martha, who served him; and, lastly but not least, Mary, who sat at his feet.

Yet, another odor has drifted into the room. More of a stench than an aroma. It is the stink of death. Only Jesus detects it. The Christ, and one other—Mary.

Mary comes in cradling an alabaster jar containing expensive perfume. It represents her investments. Her future financial security. Her future hopes. Her most precious possession. As she breaks the seal, the smell of extravagant love fills the room. The syrupy fluid begins to flow from the thin neck of the veined alabaster jar anointing the head of her Lord and Master.

What she has done violates every cultural norm, and upsets the social etiquette of the day. It becomes a moment where all the others in the room become invisible, and it is an intimate moment of worship between she and Jesus. And like most moments of intense worship, this one draws critics too. For some in the crowd, the ministry is a business to be budgeted rather than a Savior to serve.

Mary doesn’t need to defend herself, because Jesus does it for her. As she stands over Jesus, wanting to slink away from the sting of the purse keeper’s words, Jesus speaks up for her. Somehow, this perfume mixed with the saltiness of her tears, is potent enough to be savored for all eternity and we whiff its’ bouquet even now. It is a fragrant reminder of what love smells like.

Several hours later, Jesus would be stripped naked. He would hang in shame as his arms were suspended and held in place by nails that pierced his palms. Unable to cover himself, the only thing he would wear that day were the remnants of the perfume that lingered in his hair.

As his head lolls onto his chest, and rolls back and forth in anguish, the aroma fills his nostrils and helps cover his own odors and those of the ones who hurl insults at him. And as he struggles for his last breath, with one heaving inhalation, he may savor the scent that gives him the strength to exhale and exclaim, “It is finished.” It is a fragrant reminder of what love smells like.

Like the seal on the alabaster jar, the alabaster body of Jesus would be broken. Blood would flow from the wounds, and from the spear stabbed into his side. That precious blood–so lovely, so pure, is more precious than any perfume.

Mary came to break an alabaster jar for Jesus. And Jesus came to break an alabaster jar for humanity.

It was a jar he never regretted breaking.

And neither did Mary.

Nor should you.

You are loved.