A Sweet Aroma

Below is an article that my friend, Crystal Kirgiss, wrote for Young Life‘s weekly communique to staff and stakeholders worldwide. It is a perfect reflection as we prepare to celebrate Resurrection Sunday. With her permission, I want to share it with you…

Sometime during what we now call Holy Week, Jesus was eating with His disciples and other friends when a woman approached with an expensive jar filled with expensive perfume. Rather than giving the jar and perfume to Jesus as a gift, like the Magi had 30-some years earlier, the woman shockingly broke the jar open and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head and feet, releasing a sweet aroma.

Essential oils are big business right now. But dousing someone with it during a dinner party is not the norm. We might lightly dab to clear our sinuses or calm our mood. But we do not pour plentifully, no matter what the occasion. This woman, though, poured until there was nothing left to pour.

Jesus’ disciples were neither amused nor impressed.

“What a waste! What nonsense! You could have sold that for good money! You could have made a measurable impact!” Leave it to Jesus’ disciples to deliver a thorough scolding for someone’s act of absolute allegiance and utter worship.

Jesus, though, set the record straight. He called her act beautiful. He praised her — not for something impressive like converting an entire village, or investing and making a profit, or planning and pulling off a large event, or increasing her ministry output. Instead, He praised her for humbly and faithfully anointing Him for burial.

For months, Jesus had been telling His friends He would soon die. Just days earlier, as He’d entered Jerusalem, He’d told them that now was that time. Maybe He’d even talked about it during this very meal.

But this woman seems to be the only one who truly believed what He said, in which case her strange, extravagant act makes great sense — for how else could she possibly respond but to pour onto Jesus the most valuable thing she had, knowing He would soon pour out for all of humanity the most valuable thing He had.

Both Matthew and Mark note that Jesus said to everyone in the room: “I tell you the truth; wherever the good news is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

But that’s not usually the case. It’s a weird story, after all. And it lacks a neat and tidy takeaway. If we’re always in search of neat and tidy takeaways, Scripture will often disappoint us. But if we’re willing to read it for what it is, and consider the larger story of the Bible, Scripture will always feed us.

At face value, this story is mostly about something a real woman did, in a real place, during a real moment in time, when it was exactly the right thing for her to do in response to Jesus. Are we as aware of things we’re called to do, in this place and at this moment, in response to Jesus? And if that thing is costly, would we be as willing as this woman was to actually do it, knowing others might misunderstand and call us foolish?

As we read the bigger message of God’s Word beyond this story, it becomes clear why this narrative should be remembered and discussed. This woman’s actions are a reminder that in response to Jesus’ death, resurrection, and Lordship, we’re called to break open and pour out the costliest thing we have — our very lives — as we die to ourselves daily, surrender to our Lord, and honor our King. Hopefully, our acts of sacrificial obedience and worship will release a sweet aroma into the world just like the woman’s perfume did thousands of years ago — but now it will be the sweet aroma of Christ Himself.

By Crystal Kirgiss, Director of Discipleship Content and Partnerships, Young Life

Published by

Curt Hinkle

I am a practical theologian. A theology that doesn't play out in one's everyday life is impractical, or of no real use. A simple definition of theology is the attempt to understand God and what he is up to, allowing us to join him in his work.

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