Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Scripture, like the Hebrew culture which carries to us its stories, is filled with allegory and symbol. Many details that we skim over actually hold rich meaning when we take the time to look at them. Like nard, for example.
Pure nard was the substance that was in the woman’s alabaster jar. Nard isn’t something that sits on our shelves today, but in the Biblical world, it was a widely known and treasured substance. Made from the roots of underground plants native to the foothills of the Himalayas and noted for its rare and exquisite fragrance, nard was mythologized to be a remnant of the lost Garden of Eden. It was the perfume of unspoiled beauty.
While other herbs and essential oils make repeat appearances throughout Scripture, nard is uncommon, except in one significant place: the Song of Songs. In this erotic, ancient book that uses the allegory of newlywed lovers to teach us of life with God, it was the fragrance of nard that the Bride gave as her mark so that the Beloved could discover her and come to her. Covering Jesus with, of all things, nard, was not a random act with symbolism attached later; it was a living out of the story of life with the Beloved. The Song of Songs had provided the meaning of this moment centuries before… “While the king was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance.” [Song of Songs 1:12]
As followers of Jesus and members of His Body, the Church, we are the “Bride of Christ.” Now, as it was then, giving is the vital, fragrant mark of the Bride. It is how the Beloved discovers our love for Him, and it invites His presence to come into our lives in new and intimate ways.
The Real Question: How will God recognize my love for Him in how I live my life? What is the “fragrance” that my living spreads to the world?
Family Talk: Tell your kids how you have “smelled” the fragrance of Christ coming from them.
ONE in Prayer: God, I desire to love you deeply with my life. Help me to live in such a way that my life is marked with the fragrance of Christ, identifying all of me with You forever. Amen.