A Fragrant Aroma

By Gary L. Fiscus

My eldest daughter sometimes walks through the house and permeates each hallway and room with her perfume. Frequently, it is “nice.” Other times it smells like “Essence of Dime Store.”

In reading an illustration of how a fragrance lingers in a room, or flower stems stain the hands of the bearer, I thought of a passage in John 12:3. It tells how Mary’s perfume is said to have filled the house with the odor of her ointment.”

I was interested in this phrase and in studying learned that neither Matthew, Mark nor Luke recorded the sentence. (See Mt. 26:6-13; Mk. 13:3-9; and Lk. 7:37-39.) This intrigued me even more. Why did the Holy Spirit see fit to record it at all? Why in John’s account, and no one else’s? I cannot answer the questions, but the sentence has provoked some thought.

The illustration I mentioned above speaks of an adverse odor of the familiar skunk. An attacked skunk certainly leaves his distinctive mark on whomever is around. The same, however, is true of a room filled with roses, as well as anyone touching those flowers. I sometimes give my wife flowers and have noticed that if I hand them to her, they leave a bit of fragrance on me.

I believe John’s record of this one clause suggests that Mary’s ointment had quality; but, it also left a distinctive influence for all who could, shall we say, read between the lines! Jesus Himself, as well as His gospel would be spread throughout the world, and act, therefore, as a sweet smelling savor to all men. Men in turn would offer themselves as spiritual sacrifices to Jehovah, and, thereby as Christians, be “sweet smelling savors!”

In a comment on John 12:3, A.T. Robertson states: “Effective first aorist passive of pleroo and a natural result” (Emph. mine, GLF). When a “sweet smelling” fragrance infiltrates the nostrils of man a pleasant, refreshing reaction takes place. It is good. It is satisfying.

This same reaction is seen on the face of Paul and in the satisfied spirit of God. In Philippians 4:18 the apostle writes: . . . I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. ” This is literally “an odor of fragrance” (Col. note, NASV). The Christian’s liberality in his giving of himself and his means is like “sweet smelling perfume” to Jehovah. (See 2 Cor. 8:1-5; Rom. 12:1-2; 6:13, 16, 19; 1 Cor. 6:20; Heb. 13:15 and I Pet. 2:5.)

The Lord had enjoyed the soothing aroma of sacrifices during Old Testament times (Ex. 29:18, 25; Gen. 8:21; Ezek. 20:41). That law having been fulfilled (Col. 2:14) and we being bound to a “perfect law” (Jas. 1:25), we offer ourselves as that aroma today. This is what Paul was commending the Philippians for in 4:18. Their reward for their care of him was that: “. . God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). All that just for “smelling good” in the Kingdom of God!

How do we “smell” to brethren and aliens? In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 the old soldier writes: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. . . . ” It is, as Robertson says, “a natural result.” We speak often of our lights shining, but do we speak ever of how “aromatic” we smell?

The secret to successfully casting off a spiritual fragrance is to follow Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. ” Do you smell good?

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 23, p. 724
December 5, 1985