Emit the Pleasing Aroma of Christ
26 June 2016
I met Mary at a seminary in S. Korea. After getting married, we went to school together every day. Every morning, when we went to school, we usually stopped by a bakery in order to buy a certain bread. We loved eating that bread. We usually ate that bread with a milk for our breakfast in our car. That bakery was close to our house. When we passed that bakery during the late night, even though it was already closed, sometimes, we felt like we could still smell that bread. We feel like even now we can still smell that bread.
Our church has an event named 'Christmas Tea' before Christmas every year. It is a fundraising event for the outreach committee of our church. Not only do many locals attend but our church members also attend this event. The members of outreach committee usually begin to decorate our social hall about one month before that event. During those weeks, sometimes, I stop by the social hall to encourage members who decorate the social hall. I look around the beautiful decorations. I sit on a table and I imagine myself eating some foods on the table. Even though there is not any food on that table, I feel like I could smell the foods. When I imagine the smell of the food, I feel good.
In my old church, there was a senior female member. She was in her early 80s. Whenever she came to church, she wore some beautiful dresses. She also used a certain perfume that had a sweet scent. Most church members loved the scent of her perfume. One Sunday after the worship, there was a meeting in the church. In that meeting, I was able to smell her perfume. I told her that the scent of her perfume made me feel good. Then she replied to me that she had forgotten to use her perfume that morning. I told her, "What? you didn't use your perfume this morning?" Even though she didn't use her perfume that morning, I felt like I still smelled the scents of her perfume.
When we smell some good scents, we tend to feel good. I would like to ask you to use your nose when you read today's passage. What does it mean? It means that you need to smell today's passage. We hear God's word with our ears. We read God's word with our lips. We also read God's word with our eyes. We use our hands to hold the Bible. Sometimes, we use our knees. We humbly kneel down when we read the Bible. When you receive God's word, you use your body. However, you rarely use your nose. I want to encourage you to use your nose so that you can smell today's passage.
I think that most of you know the story of Lazarus. A couple of days ago, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In today's passage, we find that Jesus visited his house again. When he was in a room of the house, Mary, the sister of Lazarus came to Jesus and suddenly broke the bottle of her perfume. She poured perfume on his head. Then the room was filled with that perfume. Imagine as if you were in that room and had smelled that perfume.
Here is a question. Why did she break the bottle of her perfume? It was because she was thankful that Jesus had raised her brother from the dead. She wanted to thank Jesus so she broke it. She knew that Jesus would die in the near future. She also knew that his body would rot and there would also be some bad smell from his dead body. In Israel, there was a ritual that the Israelites perfumed the dead bodies during the funeral. It was a very holy ritual. Mary wanted to prepare for the death of Jesus with her perfume. She imagined some smell from Jesus' dead body in the future and so she perfumed him. Mary had that beautiful heart.
I think that not only did Mary catch the smell of the dead body of Jesus, but also she was able to catch some smells from other people in that room. Who were the people in that room? There were Lazarus and Judas, the disciple of Jesus. Imagine as if you were in that room. What would you smell? First of all, imagine a smell that Lazarus had? When he died a couple of days ago, his body was rotten a lot. Mary smelled the decomposing corpse of her brother. She must have been shocked with that smell. Even though her brother had been raised from the dead, she could not completely forget that smell. Even though her brother had come back to life, I think his body was probably incompletely restored and there was probably still some smell from his body. What about Judas? What can you smell from Judas? Don't you think that there was a smell of money from him? Don't you think that there was a smell of loving money from him? When Mary broke the bottle of her perfume and poured it on Jesus, Judas said that it would have been better to use that perfume for the poor. However, the scripture says that those words were not what he really wanted to say. It says that he said those words because he wanted to take that money for himself. Mary probably caught a smell of money from him.
When I served a church in South Korea, there was a male member who worked at the Korea Mint Corporation. His job was to print and count the money every day. One night during the weekdays, there was a meeting at the church. That member came to church right after he finished his work. A female member in that meeting said that she smelled a smell of money from him. When she said it, I felt like I also could smell money from him. Since the meeting that night, I felt like I always smelled money from him even though he took a shower and wore some clothes that had been already washed.
Judas will betray Jesus later. Can you catch the smell of betrayal from him? I think that Mary had caught that smell from him. I think Mary could catch some smells of death, money and betrayal in that room. She wanted to get rid of those smells. The primary reason she broke the bottle of her perfume was to prepare for the death of Jesus. Not only for that, but also she broke it because she wanted to get rid of those smells of death, money and betrayal.
When Mary broke the bottle of her perfume, the room was filled with the fragrance of that perfume. All the people could smell the fragrance of the perfume and feel good.
In Luke 7, we find a similar story. One day, Jesus was invited to a house of Pharisee named Simon. Even though Jesus entered his house, his servant didn't wash the feet of Jesus. It was a big mistake. In Israel, there was a custom that servants had to wash peoples' feet at the entrance doors of houses. Israel was a country that didn't have much water. We usually take a shower when we come back home. But back then, the Israelites were satisfied by just washing their feet. The servant of Simon totally forgot that important work. That servant forgot to wash Jesus' feet. A woman saw Jesus entering Simon's house. She also saw that the servant didn't wash Jesus' feet. She immediately went back home and took her perfume to Simon's house. She entered Simon's house and suddenly came to Jesus and washed Jesus' feet with her tears. She also poured perfume on Jesus. When she poured that perfume, the house was filled with good smell.
The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:15 that we are the pleasing aroma of Christ. He says that we must emit the fragrance of Jesus in our Christian lives. Sometimes, we catch some smells of betrayal, greed, lie or hatred. When we catch those bad smells from others, don't be upset. Don't get irritated. Don't scold or condemn them. Instead of complaining about those smells, you must emit the fragrance of Jesus. You must change those bad smells to the pleasing fragrance of Jesus.
While Mary and I were in Indonesia for mission work, we experienced many things. There was a Korean business man in Indonesia. His business went bankrupt. He got divorced. He didn't go back to Korea but decided to live in Indonesia. While he was in Indonesia, he was diagnosed with HIV (AIDS). Here in the United States, the government takes care of HIV patients and provides proper treatments to all patients. But the Indonesian's government seemed to not have this kind of sick care system. The Korean man was very poor and couldn't afford for a proper treatment. He lived in a boarding house. The owner of that boarding house was a Chinese Indonesian woman. She was a faithful Christian. While most Koreans ignored his situation, the owner of the boarding house tried her best to take a good care of him. But he eventually died. The Korean community provided the funeral service. The funeral lasted for 3 days according to the Korean culture. Mary and I saw the owner of that boarding house attend all the funeral services during those 3 days. She attended all the funeral services for three days. She served and helped with those funeral services. Most Koreans were moved by her serving and caring heart. I was able to smell a pleasing aroma of Christ from her. She truly emitted a pleasing aroma of Christ to others.
In 1991, Miura Ayako wrote a book named 'Ladder of Heaven' (Shueisha Bunko). That book was translated in Korean but not yet in English. In her book, she introduces a true story. There was a pastor named Nakao in Japan. Pastor Nakao ran a small boarding house in a very tiny rural town in Japan. One day, a young student who attended a seminary came to pastor Nakao's boarding house. The young man introduced himself to the pastor that he suffered from severe tuberculosis of the lungs. Back then, tuberculosis was a contagious disease and there was no cure for that disease. And also people were reluctant to take care of tuberculosis patients. The young man had to stop his studies at the seminary. He wanted to recuperate at pastor Nakao's boarding house. Pastor Nakao and his wife gladly accepted him while other people didn't accept or didn't even come close to him. While staying in that boarding house, he often vomited blood. The house was filled with the smell of blood. Pastor Nakao couldn't receive other clients because of that young man. But pastor Nakao and his wife never gave up and they tried their best to take care of him. They considered him as their own son. He was very thankful for the pastor and his wife. He was deeply moved by the ministry of pastor Nakoa and his wife. Later he was completely healed. Later, he became a great pastor in Japan. He was Pastor Toyohiko Kagawa (July 10, 1888 -- April 23, 1960). He dedicated his life to serving the poor and the sick. He worked for the poor and the sick in Japan. People called him the father of the poor in Japan. People said that he emitted a pleasing aroma of Christ. However, he said that Pastor Nakao first emitted the pleasing aroma of Christ and he was following Pastor Nakao.
We are the pleasing aroma of Christ. Jesus wants us to emit the fragrance of Jesus to others. When others smell the fragrance of Jesus emitted by us, they will come to know Jesus and also experience joy and peace in their lives.
Rev. Dr. David Choi
Last modified 8 July 2016.