Summary: A perspective on John 12: 1-8. What happens at this evening meal is extraordinary. The perfume was worth a years salary, and Mary gave it freely and willingly to anoint the feet of Jesus. How will you respond to salvation, to the perfume of grace?
John 12: 1-8
The Perfume of Grace
Past events can be re-called, remembered through the help of pictures, stories and even pleasant aromas. Toast reminds me of breakfast as its aroma fills the house and beckons me to have more. For some Jewish people the aroma of BBQ lamb contributes to remind them of the grace of God. It would be wonderful to share in that experience and have this house of God filled with the beckoning aroma of BBQ lamb. Christians also share in the Passover experience with the Israelites in which our Lord Jesus Christ was given as the Passover Lamb for our salvation.
Standing next to a BBQ, one can easily become covered with the smoke and aromas of the cooking. It can cover you completely in no time at all. It can permeate the clothes through to the skin and the hair is saturated with the aromas of the BBQ. If there are any windows open nearby the house will fill with the same cooking aromas. Like the BBQ cooking aromas there are many other aromas, scents and perfumes that can cover a person, fill a house, and stay with them for quite awhile. God likes the aromas of a good BBQ.
Our Gospel text today, in a sense, meets at a junction of aromas. There, it reminds people of the first Passover feast, the coming Passover Festival, and for some, the anticipation of the cross with its ultimate Passover sacrifice.
God instituted the first Passover meal as a means of salvation. While the people of Israel lived in the land of Egypt they suffered as slaves under Pharaoh. God heard their cry for help and set about to work their salvation. Finally, God instructed the people of Israel to prepare unleavened bread and a perfect lamb for sacrifice. The blood of the lamb was painted on the doorpost. That evening they ate the BBQ lamb while the angel of the Lord passed over their houses and brought death to the first born of the Egyptians, and deliverance for Israel from slavery. During this event the blood of the lamb protected the Israelites. It is possible to imagine that as they hurriedly ate the Passover lamb the aroma of the BBQ, the perfume of grace filled the house. Soon afterwards Pharaoh let Israel go to worship their God. In time to come the Passover proved to be inadequate. It was sufficient to release them from the slavery under Pharaoh, but inadequate to release people from slavery to sin and death. The continued reality of sin showed that a new Passover, a new sacrifice was required to fulfil the deliverance from the slavery of sin and death.
When the Temple was built at Jerusalem pilgrims came from everywhere to celebrate the Passover on the 14th day of the month of Nisan being the first month of the year. Hosts of families came to offer a sacrifice of a perfect lamb in the Temple. The fat of the lamb was burnt on the altar and its aroma, the perfume of grace filled the house of God and beyond. Each host would take home the carcass of the lamb wrapped in its own skin. There he would BBQ the whole lamb and shares it with family and friends as they remember the grace of God and their deliverance from Egypt.
During this week of Passover preparations Jesus and some followers are staying at Bethany with his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They are there to celebrate God’s grace through Jesus in restoring Lazarus from the grave to life again. They are there also to celebrate God’s grace in the coming Passover a few days away.
What happens at this evening meal is extraordinary. Jesus who is God is with his people as he was with his people, Israel in the land of Egypt. God’s word created freedom for the Israelites from Egypt, it created freedom for Lazarus from the grave and it also creates a new freedom here at Bethany. This evening meal displays and foretells a freedom through the coming Passover meal in which Jesus is the worthy sacrificial lamb. He will be crucified on the cross on Friday, a few days away.
The authorities are seeking to arrest Jesus as they plan to kill him. They fear that more and more people are leaving the Temple to follow him. In the meantime Jesus is staying at Bethany and his hosts respond with gratitude to having a saviour in their midst. Martha quietly serves the meal at the table while Mary opens a costly bottle of perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus.
The perfume was worth a years salary, and Mary gave it freely and willingly to anoint the feet of Jesus. Indeed, there in the room with Jesus is a costly sacrifice. Jesus who is God is this costly sacrifice. Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross God will forgive our sins and give us eternal life now and forever. There in the room the aroma of the sacrifice, the perfume of grace has filled the house and covered all that are with Jesus.