The Fragrance Filled the Whole House
This is one the precious stories of the Gospels; I say that because Matthew, who tells the same story in his gospel, says that Jesus said “wherever the Gospel is preached this story will be told in memory of her.”
This is one of those stories we pass on – it appeals almost to all the senses – we can see Mary at Jesus feet, we can feel her hair washing Jesus feet, we can hear Jesus blessing her, we can smell the perfume, it filled the whole house. Sometimes a smell can be so strong that you almost taste it.
It’s a beautiful story.
What’s it about:
Well, it’s another story about Mary and Martha,..... we’ve met them before in John’s Gospel; Mary the one who sits at Jesus feet, while Martha runs around working.
It’s another story about Lazarus who just a few weeks before this had been dead and buried.
It’s a story of Judas.
It’s a story of the other disciples.
It’s a story of the poor – it contains one of Jesus most important teachings about the poor.
It’s a story of money, isn’t it?
It’s a story about Jesus.
At it’s most basic it is the story of a home which becomes filled with the fragrance of a beautiful perfume, which no doubt also passed through the windows and doors to the outside, perhaps even causing passersby to stop and enjoy the aroma.
Can I suggest it is a story of smells and then ask us this question: what do our homes smell of?
Many years ago there was a advert on Springbok radio (in South Africa).
“Nice people the Jones’s aren’t they dear. Yes, but that smell of cooking from the kitchen..... and the other rooms. .....Boom boom boom....... Other people do notice unpleasant odours in your home but spray… air freshener…..........”
What does your home smell of – what fragrance, in the words of verse 3, ‘fills the whole house?’
There are a few smells in Mary and Martha’s home:
There’s probably a whiff of resentment in the air, Mary and Martha are sisters but they don’t have the best relationship. Previously Martha has complained to Jesus… “tell Mary to get up and help me.”....Now here she is again, at the feet of Jesus when there is a dinner party going on.
That whiff of resentment and bitterness that fills homes when people feel other members of the family aren’t pulling their weight.
There’s surely the whiff of excitement in the air. Jesus is here.
And of course there's Lazarus – they say some people can smell a good story a mile off – and they were coming from all over to hear and see the story for themselves .......this story of a the man raised from the dead – a story that was wafting all over the area, even into Jerusalem, even into the homes and palaces of the scribes and Pharisee’s and religious leaders.
Do our homes ‘smell’ of the stories, of the good stories, miracles and works that God is doing in your life?
There’s another smell in the air that night, the smell of the thief ....verse 6 Judas used to help himself from the money bag.
Some variations of this smell today are the atmosphere in a home where a child perhaps takes from the money bag of the parents – begs for help and always gets it while other siblings struggle on trying to make their own ends meet.
It’s a smell that can linger for years… “you know you helped, so and so, but you didn’t help me or … mom and dad sacrificed for so and so to go to a good school…”
Another variation is the family member, parent perhaps, who dips into the moneybag to feed a bad habit, drinking or gambling and the family goes without.
It creates a terrible smell in the home,............. the smell of the person with his/her hand in the moneybag.
There is of course the smell of treachery in the air – Judas already has his ideas about betraying Jesus.
That’s a terrible smell in the home – when wife or husband, or children sense betrayal in the air.
There’s the smell of money in the air. ‘That could have been sold for 300 silver coins’
The equivalent of many nice, new, fresh, crisp notes today.
There’s the smell of the poor ..............vs 8 “You will always have poor people with you.”
Oh no… sniff sniff… what a damn nuisance. Jesus says in our reading "You will always have the poor with you".....but as we look at our seat/pews today in our churches, are the poor with us.......Thank God for the new pope who might call us all back to the poor, who, by our manoeuvrings are NOT always with us in the church....
This is a story of smells, the smells that permeate our homes and our lives, our work places, our church, our nation.
The smell of death is in the air that night: ‘Let her keep the rest for my burial.’ Oh man … we don’t’ all like it when a person starts talking about their death. It can leave a bad smell or taste in the mouth.
All these smells fill our homes – some of them are good, some are bad, some are unavoidable,................ they filled Mary and Martha’s home that evening but they were overpowered by the sweet smell of extravagant love and sacrifice for Jesus. That is the fragrance that filled their home that evening........
It’s very close to Easter now and I need to ask you:
Do you love Jesus?
Do you love Jesus extravagantly?
Do you love Jesus sacrificially?
Do you love, in the words of Scripture, the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength?
When we don’t, then other smells overpower us.
But how do I love God this way,.... you ask?
I’ve struggled with this as I’ve experienced different love relationships – parents, wife, my children. It’s a different love, isn’t it?
But pursue this love, long for this love, pray for this love, desire it, hunger and thirst for this love so that it becomes the fragrance in the midst of all these other smells that we sometimes have to live with, pray for this love so that it becomes the fragrance that fills the whole house of your life.
The text I’d like you to take home is from John 12:3
‘The sweet smell of the perfume filled the whole house.’
We’ve looked at the smells that can fill our homes and we’ve been reminded of the best air freshener there is – the extravagant and sacrificial love for Christ flowing from our hearts.