The Fragrance of Faith

John 12:1-8 – The 5th Sunday of Lent – for March 17, 2013

“The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:3)

Take a breath and smell this . . .

Fresh-mowed grass.

Bread baked in an oven.

A skunk in your neighborhood.

A rotten egg, diesel engine or spoiled milk.

A puppy’s breath, orange blossoms or a Christmas tree.

mary-and-jesus-feetThere was that time when Jesus ate dinner at Lazarus’ home. What if they’d shared bread baked from earlier in the morning, grilled lamb, figs just plucked from the tree and pomegranates with red, sweet juice dribbling down chins? Can you smell the feast?

Were any doors and windows open? Did a breeze deliver the aroma of a nearby orchard? Were flowers blooming by the entry? Had Lazarus’ neighbor spent the day pressing new oil from harvested olives? Do you feast in the smells?

Jesus’ disciples crowded into the room. Judas fingered the bag of coins. Peter ached for his family. Thomas drank too much. Matthew told a long story about a tax dodger from Galilee, but forgot the punch line. All were road weary, sweat-stained and couldn’t recall their last bath.

Lazarus’ sister entered. Mary.

Readers of John’s Gospel know what happens next. Her actions led to Judas’ complaints . . . the expensive nard she possessed could’ve been sold, the money “given to the poor.” Her actions caused Jesus to comment about those same poor with a perplexing, melancholy response:  “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Mary rubbed the precious nard onto Jesus’ calloused feet. She literally welcomed the guest. She metaphorically prepared him for impending death. And impending mystery. Continue reading →