April 7, 2019, The Scent of Grace (John 12:1-8) – guest speaker, Helen Harris

To listen to this sermon, click here:  Z0000128

Can you smell the perfume in the air this morning? I prayed our church with a little before service, doesn’t it smell nice. Have you ever gone to the department stores and sampled the perfumes? Maybe just the ladies have done this, not so much the men. They usually have sample bottles where you can spray a little on your wrist to see if you like the perfume, encouraging you to purchase it, of course.

My mother had her favorite perfume from Avon, called Mesmerize. I remember very clearly, the day my mother passed away in the hospital, holding her hand and praying for her until she quietly just slipped away. It was a difficult year for me losing my mother then 6 months later my sister. I hold them both very close to my heart.

There have been occasions that I would often spray some my mother’s perfume that she wore into the air, just to remember her scent.

There have been times when I see an elderly lady in the grocery store, who reminds me of my mom which brings me to tears. It brings back to me my mom’s loving caring ways.

It’s strange how seeing a complete stranger, their character or the scent of perfume, can remind us of those we miss so much.

Many of us have family that are dear to our hearts, who have faced severe life-threatening health issues. When death occurs, we have pictures, lockets, jewelry and mementoes that fill our memories of our love for them. When we lose someone close to us, we don’t always get the opportunity to say all the things that we would like to have said. Sometimes it’s just too late.

God as we know, has a plan for each of us. He knows exactly how much time we have while we are here on earth and when we He will call us home.

In today’s Gospel, we learn about Mary of Bethany. Mary of Bethany is not to be confused, with Mary Magdalene who traveled with Jesus and was at the His crucifixion.

Mary had saved a pound of very expensive perfume probably as part of her dowry for her prospects for marriage. The perfume was probably a year’s wages of a normal working man. Mary was a true Christian worshipper, portrayed so wonderfully in today’s Gospel.

You will remember a few days earlier; Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave. Many were confused at seeing Lazarus alive and walking about. In appreciation, his sisters Martha and Mary invited Jesus to their home which was six days before the Passover.

The Roman soldiers were close at hand looking for Jesus and some of his disciples who had traveled with him. Jesus was aware that he would soon enter into Jerusalem where he would be arrested and tried. Jesus knew it was getting close to his time.

Martha was busy with the preparation of the meal, while Mary was eager at the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet because of her faith and love for him, even though Mary was neglecting her serving duties.

Most likely, Jesus was reclining at a divan and using a cushion on one arm which was usually a custom. (A divan is a large couch usually without back or arms). They would lean on cushions with one arm and eat with the other. Jesus told the disciples that he wouldn’t be with them very much longer.

Mary found herself longing to be near Jesus to hear his words, while the disciples failed and missed his important teachings about his upcoming death and resurrection. (Mark 9:30-35) They wouldn’t have him, much longer, but they weren’t listening.

Can you imagine how Mary felt, being able to sit next to Jesus and listen to him? How exciting it must have been for her.

“Mary seems to have been the only one who was sensitive to the impending death of Jesus.”

Judas Iscariot who was a common thief at heart cared only about what he could get for himself and we know he would soon betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Mary opposed Judas and didn’t care for his ways.

“Mary violated several normal customs of the time; she was expected to serve; no woman unwrapped her hair in public, it was not dignified; she touched the feet of another, which was degrading; the perfume she collected was a typical treasure kept by women for their dowry, which she emptied on Jesus.”

She wiped the feet of Jesus with the gift of fine perfume with her long hair. “This would pre-figure the time that soon Jesus would wipe the feet of his disciples,” before his crucifixion. (13:5). Her gesture was one of Jewish customs for anointing before a burial.

Judas thought the value of the perfume which was thousands of dollars should be given to the poor. Jesus told Judas to leave Mary alone for what she had done was a great compassionate act. Mary expressed deep grace by anointing Jesus with her perfume showing her love and devotion towards him.

The aroma and scent filled the room, can you just imagine? It fills our minds of the smell of grace. The smell fills us of the Holy Spirit and our love for Jesus.

A week from today is Palm Sunday and the commemoration of the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. The word “Passion” describes the suffering endured by Jesus his last few days of his life.

The palm branch is a symbol of victory and a sign of reverence. In Europe, where palm branches are hard to find, branches of box, yew, or willow are often carried in procession on Palm Sunday to commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

We will soon begin the journey with Jesus’ throughout Holy week and his mercy and gift to us through the cross.

God gave us the gift of grace through His Son, Jesus Christ through his love and mercy. Grace is given to us by the Father and we respond as his children with our expression of our love to Him.

Amen.

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