Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. (Luke 23:56)
It seems like yesterday that my wife and I discovered Haachim Levy’s spices, teas and fruits in the heart of the Mahane Yehuda Market in the Jewish quarter of Old City Jerusalem. We traveled there three years ago, but the sounds and smells of the market are still etched into my memory. I’ll bet some of those sweet and savory spices were among those prepared by the women who would return to Jesus’ tomb early on the first day of the week.
This was a labor of love. Long before the days of funeral homes and embalming, family and friends prepared the deceased for burial with many pounds of spices to cover the smell of decomposition and honor the body of the loved one. After Jesus died, it was just about dusk and the start of the Sabbath. The rest of the ritual would have to wait until Sunday morning.
We honor our loved ones with worship services, slide shows of family photos, headstones inscribed with significant symbols, life-summarizing obituaries, and glasses lifted high. The aroma of fresh flowers fills the sanctuary as we gather to remember, mourn, and pray. After the funeral service, we will often gather in a church hall, a restaurant, or a home. The smell of catered food, sweet desserts, and brewing coffee pairs well with our tears, stories, memories, and laughter.
I remember sitting in Ramona’s room in the hospice house the day before she died. She was unresponsive, but comfortable. 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 ointment 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.
I love the smell of freshly baked bread. Or a newly mown grass. A baby whose hair was washed with baby shampoo. Just-brewed coffee. Bacon! Towels right out of the dryer. Chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven. I am so thankful for God’s gift of wonderful smells!
A few weeks ago, a woman had poured pure nard on Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair. The aroma filled the room. Jesus was touched. He knew. He knew they wouldn’t have time to prepare his body. So he was thankful for the scent of honor, worship, and love.
Thank you for the smell of love, Lord.