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The aroma of love

“The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume.” (John 12:3)

Devotion on John 12:1-11
I wrote this for Providence United Methodist Church for the Monday of Holy Week. 

They say our sense of smell is deeply connected to memory and emotion. I guess that’s how we can say that a candle smells like Christmas, or that baking cookies smell like home.

In today’s Bible passage we read of Mary’s generous act of love. She uses an expensive perfume—maybe the most precious thing she owns—to anoint Jesus’ feet. Then she lovingly dries them with her hair. John uses our sense of smell to draw us into the scene, “The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume” (John 12:3 Common English Bible).

For most everyone there, this a pleasant smell and a lovely scene. Judas, however, smells something different. He objects because he doesn’t see Jesus in the same way Mary does. Mary knows he is the Christ (Greek), the Messiah (Hebrew), both of which when translated into English mean “the anointed one.”

Mary wasn’t trying to fill the house with an aroma. She was simply letting Jesus know how much he meant to her, but everyone else was affected too.

The same is true today. We have the ability to fill our house, our Facebook feeds, our church, and our workplaces with an aroma. Will we choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Or will we fill the space around us with a much less pleasant odor?

I wonder how many times in the years that followed, those who were there that night re-lived this bittersweet moment whenever they smelled Mary’s brand of perfume. The aroma of love tends to linger in our hearts and minds.

What smells take you back and fill you with memories of love?

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