In John 12 we read “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
So, Mary washed and anointed Jesus’ feet a few days before Passover. Then Jesus washed the disciples’ feet on Thursday, Passover. Now, after he did that, who there washed Jesus’ feet? Trick question. No one. Jesus went to the cross that next day with the powerful fragrance of spikenard still on his lower legs and feet.
Let’s back up just a minute and talk about the contents of that alabaster box. What is nard, or spikenard? Also called muskroot, it is a class of aromatic amber-colored oil derived from a flower in the honeysuckle family which grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, India. It’s got two uses classically. Song of Solomon discusses it as a lovers’ perfume enhancing the joy of the wedding night. It’s a musky scent that is life-giving, beautifying, and delightful. But it was also used for embalming, covering a deceased person with a pleasant aromatic. Mary, who clearly listened well to Jesus, was anointing his body for burial. He even says as much. She, using her hair, in humility, smelled of Christ and He of her. Union. Intermingled. Such powerful imagery.
So, he still smells of this perfume while he’s on the cross as it wafts up to his nostrils. Smell, by the way, is the number one memory trigger. Jesus, we are told, endured the cross for the “joy set before Him.” Now, I submit that this memory trigger, this wedding night aromatic, reminded Christ of His Bride. His joy. His wedding night: the Marriage Supper Of the Lamb, yet to be. It reminded him of us. His Bride! Us! His beloved! We got Him through it. That scent helped keep us in his memory and that allowed him to endure the cross. Her sacrifice that cost a year’s wages, that potent picture of the gospel, had eternal ramifications. Us. Here and now. She loved Him. And she’s to be remembered because of that.