On a moonlit night at the garden of Gethsemane many years ago, blood, sweat, and tears poured forth from Jesus’s body – but something else penetrated the veil of darkness that night: the sweet aroma of Mary’s perfume …

In Old Testament times, only two objects were placed behind the heavy curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Temple: the ark of the covenant and the golden alter of incense (Exodus 40:5, Hebrews 9:4). The incense was burned only once per year on the Day of Atonement. This is when the nation would present a fragrant offering with their sacrifice, seeking God’s forgiveness for their sins.

Mary’s Gift

In chapter 14 of the gospel of Mark, we read about Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Mary entered the room where Jesus was having dinner with his disciples. Breaking her alabaster jar of very expensive perfume and all cultural norms, Mary lovingly emptied the contents. She anointed Jesus’s head with the fragrant oil.

However, her act was far more than a kind gesture of respect and adoration. Mary’s gift was equivalent to a whole year’s salary, but her gift was far more valuable than money. You see, scholars believe this was likely Mary’s dowry. Her hope for marriage … her hope for a future. If so, Mary gave Jesus the most precious and valuable thing she owned, with no hope of any return in this life. But because of her selfless act, Jesus declared that her actions would be proclaimed for all eternity. (Mark 14:1-9)

The story doesn’t end there. Days later, Jesus fell to his knees as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. We cannot imagine the torment of His soul knowing what awaited Him. Perhaps the fragrance of Mary’s sweet perfume lingered in the air around Him as He awaited His accusers. Hours later, Jesus is crucified … His blood, sweat, and tears intermingled with the faint aroma of Mary’s perfume.

A Fragrant Offering

The King, the Christ of God, who is the Sacrificial Lamb, had been anointed, and then crowned with thorns as He presented His own life as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  In that moment, the Temple curtain that veiled the Most Holy Place was torn from top to bottom. The barrier that separated us from a Holy God was removed forever. The One Who loves us so deeply was willing to pay for it with His Own Blood.

One sacrifice paid it all. Have you received God’s extravagant gift? He is Jesus, Christ the King, the Son of God.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV)

… walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2 ESV)

Adapted from Week Six, “Witnessing God’s Passion,” from my Bible study, HAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me. Watch 45-second clip from Week Six below or view official promo video here. 

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