While [Jesus] was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at supper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of ointment, a very costly spikenard. She broke the jar and poured the ointment on His head.
There were some with indignation within themselves, saying, “Why was this ointment wasted? It might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they grumbled against her.
Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. You always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish, you may do good to them. But you will not always have Me. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel will be preached throughout the whole world, what she has done will also be spoken of as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:3-9).
Yes, you can buy spikenard oil – from Amazon, of course. Depending on how much you want or need, it will only set you back thirty or forty dollars. In Jesus’ time, however, the jar was worth three hundred denarii, or three hundred days’ wages. Let’s do the math. If we allow for a $15 per hour minimum wage, and an eight hour day, times three hundred days, that totals $36,000! This was an extravagant moment! I would compare it to drinking an expensive bottle of old scotch you’ve saved for a special occasion. Or a once in a lifetime meal at a very exclusive and expensive restaurant. It seems to be that kind of special moment.
Would you feel guilty if you drank that bottle with Jesus or took him out to dinner at that restaurant? Let’s come at that from another perspective. If you had the chance to spend a few hours with Jesus, would you take him out to eat at McDonalds? Would you simply buy him a glass of the house red ? Would you dress for the occasion in shorts a t-shirt? Maybe. Or maybe you would make that once in a lifetime moment special.
Were Simon’s indignant guests really that concerned about the poor? Did they live modest lives so that they could donate more the hungry? We don’t know. All we know is that Jesus enjoyed it. He though it was a nice thing to do. He knew his time on earth was quickly coming to an end. In just a few days his lifeless body would be taken down off the cross, wrapped in cloths and placed in a tomb. There wouldn’t be time on Friday afternoon for a proper burial. And by the time the women came back to the tomb early Sunday morning, Jesus would already be alive again. This was probably the sweetest thing anyone would do for Jesus this week!
I remember sitting in Ramona’s room in the hospice house the day before she died. No one else was there when I stopped by, so I sat with her, read a few Psalms and prayed. What I remember most about that moment is the subtle scent of lavender and peppermint in the room. Someone had rubbed her hands with a fragrant that both moisturized her dry skin and made the room smell amazing. It was one of the most calm and peaceful moments I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t want to leave.
Smells make a lasting impressions on our long term memory. The smell of baby shampoo in an infant’s hair. The smell of mom’s cookies baking in the oven. A freshly cut lawn in the summer. Dad’s cologne. Or a new car.
Or an expensive jar of ointment broken open, enshrined forever in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I’ll bet he never forgot the fragrance of that moment.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the smells that bring to mind those we love and remember, especially your son, Jesus. Amen.