Smell. That oh so important sense that can take us back within seconds to our childhood or to a memorable event. The smell of the first rains on dry and dusty soil brings me straight back to Africa, the smell of a frangipane flower reminds me of my wedding and the flowers in my bouquet. Often when my husband hugs me, I like to breathe in deeply as the smell of his aftershave makes me feel safe and after 25 years of marriage is one of beautiful familiarity. But the fragrance of potpourri can make me feel nauseous straight away as it reminds me of my pregnancy when the tiniest whiff made me feel sick!
Anointing oil was very important in Israel, and very expensive. Many oils were much more costly than diamonds and were a sign of great wealth. Each King and Priest was anointed prior to their taking office, the aroma advancing before them so that everyone would know – the King, the King is coming! Now when the new King was anointed, they didn’t just drip a drop on his forehead, no – this could be as much as a pint of fragrant perfume! Let’s take a quick look at a story back in the Old Testament, an occasion of celebration, great joy, the anointing of the future King of Israel, King Solomon – “So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.” 1 Kings 1:38-40. This was quite the party, the people of Israel rejoiced so much that the ground literally shook. Zadok the priest took that anointing oil and poured it over Solomon, the smell would have been strong, radiating out through the crowd.
Fast forward to the week before Jesus’ death on the cross. Palm Sunday, also known as the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. “The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” John 12:12-15. Incredible similarity!
But where was the fragrance? Where was the anointing oil with the Kingly aroma that would have told the crowd surrounding Him that Jesus was the King of Israel?
For that answer we need to go back to the night before! Once again Jesus was at Martha’s house dining with Lazarus and many of his other friends. “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” John 12:3. How I love Mary, always doing something unexpected, her love for Jesus always on display! Mary took a pound – that’s nearly two cups, of extremely expensive oil and washed Jesus’ feet with it, using her beautiful hair as a rag! An astonishing display of devotion. 1 Corinthians 11:15 says this; “And isn’t long hair a woman’s pride and joy?” A women’s hair is her glory. Mary, in an act of absolute humility, laid her self-worth at Jesus’ feet, tenderly using her hair to clean away the dust and dirt from the day. Her actions saying, “I give you everything, all of me, from my finances to my self-worth, my identity, my dignity, every tiny little piece of myself.” “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” Not too surprising when you consider the amount of oil Mary poured out.
And so, our sweet Mary, fulfilled that part of the story. Perhaps the part of the story where the fragrance of Christ began, the fragrance of the King of Kings and LORD of Lords. The fragrance of the Great I Am, YHWH. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem the deep fragrance of spikenard went before Him, almost like the dot on the i or the cross on a t. This is the King of Israel. In the final week before the cross everywhere Jesus went, He would have carried the fragrance of the King with him, it would have said to the Roman soldier, “I Am the King of Kings,” to Herod and Pilate, “I Am the King of Kings,” to all those who mocked Him, beat Him and put Him to death, “I AM the King of Israel!”