A Sweet-Smelling Fragrance

Growing Up

There are so many things about growing up that I remember, but one of them was sitting in class — oh, there were many of them — and being able to relate with those around me. I remember this certain girl, she seemed to be like a very good friend to me. She talked to me respectfully. I remember her well, precisely because of this respect which she had for me.

Just thinking about this person makes me have a sense of self-respect. It makes me feel good about myself. I am loved, I am accepted. Why? Because there was one person who loved me and accepted me unconditionally.

Very Costly Perfume

In the Bible, we read of a story of a woman who loved Jesus so much that she poured very costly perfume over his body in preparation for his burial (Matthew 26:12). We are told that this perfume cost the lady approximately one year’s wages. (John 12:5). That’s a lot of money. More than that, it is a great indication of just how much she was willing to sacrifice for Jesus.

We are also told, by Jesus, that because of this woman’s great sacrifice, that what she had done would be remembered. In fact, wherever the gospel was preached, her sacrifice for Jesus would be mentioned (Matthew 26:13). She was mentioned by Jesus because of what she did. I guess you could say that I also mentioned that girl because of what she did to me — she loved me unconditionally.

We All Need To Be Loved

Do you think there was a special reason why this lady poured that oil over Jesus? Jesus said it was in order to prepare him for burial (Matthew 26:12). That is a funny thing, because, normally, people are “prepared for burial” after they have died. In this case, however, Jesus was still alive! It is odd to be “prepared for burial” while the person is still alive, don’t you think? I think what Jesus was getting at when he said, “… she did it to prepare me for burial” is that her act of selfless love was preparing Jesus to be able to go through with the process which would lead up to his burial.

Just recently, I myself felt like I was having to go through a dying process. I felt hurt all over. I felt rejected all over. I think I felt somewhat like Jesus felt when he had to go through the process which led to his going up to the cross. Of course, no one could even begin to approach the level of “dying to self” that Jesus went through that day. However, what I am trying to get is the fact that I felt very much rejected, and very much hurt in my spirit.

But then I remembered that girl who had accepted me for who I was. Even though that had occured so many years ago, as I knelt down in prayer, praying about the fact that I felt rejected, the memory of her came back. The point is this: Even though I didn’t realize it at the time (and it even occurred some twenty years before that time) what, in fact, was happening to me back then in class, as I sat beside, and related with this girl was that I was being anointed for burial by the sweet fragrance of her unconditional love and acceptance for me. In other words, through her love — which, I am sure, was really God’s love flowing through her — God was preparing me to be able to endure the rejection which I would experience later on.

Unconditional & Tangible Love

Perhaps you, too, can think of a time when you were “prepared for burial” by a wonderful, God-fearing, unconditionally-loving person. Who was it? Was it your mother? Oh, perhaps she rejected you somewhat. Perhaps she’s not the one. Then, was it your father? He rejected you, too? Perhaps he is not the one, either, or, perhaps he is, and perhaps your mother is, too.

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). But how can we know that God loves us? Think back to a time when someone accepted you unconditionally, wholeheartedly, from their genuine heart of acceptance. I know there is someone who accepted you like this. Just think about who it was. Can you remember? Who was it? Surely, you know! And that is how you know that God loves you unconditionally. Because, if a mere human being can love you unconditionally, with an acceptance like that, then how much greater does God love you unconditionally, and with an everlasting love!?

But, then again, one might be tempted to argue, “Why do I need to think about a time when someone loved me unconditionally, with an ever-accepting type of love? I know that God loves me already.” The answer to that is, “You cannot really appreciate that God loves you if you cannot see his love tangibly expressed towards you, through another person. Love must be tangibly expressed in order to be appreciated.” In other words, forget about loving someone from your heart if your actions don’t speak loud and clear. Is this not the message of James 2:26, “Faith without deeds is dead”? What I think James really means to say (for those who could use a modern-day equivalent expression) is, “Your love is useless unless you tangibly express it.” (Of course, he is not saying we need to “work” in order to procure our salvation.) So, love needs to be tangibly expressed. We know that God loves us because somebody tangibly expressed their love towards us some time ago.

Preparation For Burial

When we are loved unconditionally, in a sense, we are being prepared for a type of burial. Like it was in Jesus’s own life, a day may come in our own lives when we need to reflect back and remember the love which was poured out on us. In my own case, the unconditional love and acceptance which was expressed towards me, day by day, almost twenty years before, was used by God to remind me of His unconditional, everlasting, love for me, when I was going through that hard time. It is no different for each and every one of us. Someday we may look back, and say, “Yes, I can see that God was loving me through such-and-such a person.” That may be a day when we really need to “look back,” and remember the love which God has for us.

Adequate Preparation

What do you think? Was Jesus ready for burial prior to that lady lavishing her love upon him that day when she poured out that perfume over his body? No, of course not. He was not ready, because he said it himself that she was preparing him for burial (Matthew 26:12). In other words, prior to the anointing with perfume, Jesus was unprepared for his burial. Jesus had to be prepared to go through what he would go through. He had to be prepared to endure the extreme feelings of rejection which he would surely experience as he would go up to the cross, to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world — yours and mine.

So severe would these feelings be, which would come over him that day, that he — the one and only Son of God — would cry out to his heavenly Father at one point, just before his death on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Hence, Jesus did need something which to “hang on to” while he was up there on the cross. Physically, he was able to “hang on” because of the nails which had been driven through his hands and feet. But, emotionally, he was able to “endure [the shame of] the cross” (as the Scriptures say in Hebrews 12:2), because he had been properly prepared beforehand, as a result of that woman lavishing her perfume upon him. I would not hesitate to add that, in the book of Hebrews, it says that he endured the cross, and scorned its shame, for the “joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). He went to the cross with the foreknowledge that this would lead to many people’s salvation. This was the “God” perspective. But from the “man” perspective (and Jesus was not only fully God, he was also fully man), he needed something to “hold onto”. This was what the anointing was all about. How else do you explain a *year’s* worth of wages being poured out on him? This was the estimation of his worth in his Father’s eyes – “priceless” in other words. From the human perspective, he was able to “hang on” to this, while at one and the same time being “cut off” from the love of his Father. Jesus *had* to be cut off so that he could endure *our* punishment — otherwise our salvation (based on the exchanged life principle) would not be possible! Think about it! Jesus endured that for you and me! Utterly amazing!

Recalling The Past

That day, during the anointing with the perfume signifying not only the lady’s acceptance and unconditional love which she had towards Jesus, but the Father’s, Jesus himself was being prepared to be able to endure all of the rejection which he would feel in going to the cross. It seems that what this lady had done — surely under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit — this would be his one and only source of being able to feel accepted and loved while he was up there on the cross! Rejection would pour out upon him. He would be utterly cast away from the Father’s sight — in one sense. But in another sense, the Father had prepared him beforehand for all the rejection which Jesus would suffer. You see, even when the Father allows us to go through trying times, in which feelings of rejection and despair may be tempted to come upon us, yet he has still provided a way out. “God is faithful, and will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but with that temptation, will provide a way of escape.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

One thing, too. It was the Holy Spirit who “put it into the heart” of this lady to do what she did. What she did was not a necessary type of “formula” or “recipe” for the Christian life. In other words, God has not necessarily called you to “pour out” a whole year’s worth of wages on some person, just to “prove” that you love them (or that you love God). No, apart from faith, that would be foolishness. However, if you are truly God’s servant, yes, a time will surely come, when God asks you to make some type of great sacrifice. You can depend on that. We are all called to that kind of living, as Christians. Only, make sure you are doing it under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not merely of your own decision.

In the case of Jesus, there would be a day when he would be able to recall the beautiful thing which this lady had done for him. Surely, he would need to recall it and this would be his source of strength! This act of selflessness on her part would prove to be of great value to him. No wonder Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done [in honor and memory of me] will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13).

Originally written: May 5, 1996
Updated: March 26, 2007