This article is an excerpt from Frank Viola’s new book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth. If you purchase the book on or before May 7, you’ll receive 25 free books from 15 different authors!
In the Messianic prophecy of Psalm 45, we are told that the Lord’s garments smelled of myrrh and aloes. Before Jesus was buried, Nicodemus placed myrrh and aloes on His body. And he used the same amount that was used for royal burials — a hundred pounds worth. By this act, Nicodemus testified that he believed Jesus to be a king.
Now think with me. In addition to the perfume that Mary poured upon Him, the Lord’s body was covered with a hundred pounds of fragrant spices. So when He rose from the dead a few days later, He was fragrant. And His fragrance could be smelled from afar.
Point: The resurrected Christ has a scent. He emits the everlasting fragrance of resurrection.
Now we cannot physically smell Christ today, but our spiritual senses can detect the fragrance of His presence among us.
The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. The sense of smell is the most delicate of all the human senses. By it, we receive impressions beyond our sight and hearing. Fragrance cannot be hidden. It’s pervasive. When released, the fragrant influence of Jesus Christ cannot be hidden.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
As A.B. Simpson once put it, “Preaching without spiritual aroma is like a rose without fragrance. We can only get the perfume by getting more of Christ.”
In Matt. 26:6–13 we hear the only sermon that Judas ever preached. After Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume, Judas gives a three-word protest:
“Why this waste?”
When Judas saw Mary’s worshipful act, he exploded with criticism, saying, “Why are you being so wasteful? You could have helped the poor with this small fortune!”
But Mary stepped out in faith. Her act of extravagant love was shameless, selfless and risked both embarrassment and the sneers and jeers of harsh criticism.
But love compelled her.
However, her act was rudely interrupted by a mean-spirited complaint. Her token of exquisite devotion exposed her own heart and the heart of Judas as well as the other disciples who agreed with him.
Judas sought to cloak the real motive behind his complaint with pious rhetoric. It was a case of cold-heartedness judging warm-heartedness under the guise of being spiritual.
Unfortunately, Judas is not alone in engaging in this behavior.
There are few things that are as close to God’s heart as helping the dispossessed and oppressed. Read your Old Testament. It’s spilling over with God’s concern for their plight. Jesus Himself was a poor man all His life. The poor were His representatives, not His rivals. But as important as caring for the poor is, Jesus Christ Himself is even more important. He is more valuable than any ministry, no matter how good or noble.
It’s possible to worship the god of “ministry” in place of Christ.
Interestingly, the Lord’s death, which Mary highlighted by her anointing, would eventually solve the problem of poverty forever.
The contrast between Mary and Judas is dramatic. In Mary, we see the light of love. In Judas, we see the darkness of sin. Mary anointed Jesus for burial; Judas prepared Him for betrayal. Mary loved Christ in preparation for His death; Judas helped bring about His death.
I’m comforted to know that Jesus is an advocate to all who give Him the place of preeminence. He rises to the defense of every Mary.
While Mary was misunderstood and denigrated, she never justified, defended or explained herself. Though she only speaks once in the Gospels, the legacy of her life speaks volumes by her actions. For these reasons, Mary came closer to Jesus’ inner heart than anyone else.
And her loving act is one case among several where a woman got it right while the men got it wrong. Every disciple of Christ has much to learn from Mary.