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Smells Like Love

John 12:1-8



Lazarus is at this table in v. 2.  I bet he said grace at the meal, and what can you imagine him being thankful for?  Being alive, maybe?


1.     The loving act of Mary.

"You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving."

When you love someone, you cannot help but to give to them.


For her birthday recently I got my wife a bag and a belt.  I may have overestimated just how happy she would be about how well the vacuum would run from then on!


Another guy bought his girl an engagement ring, and had them inscribe on the inside, "For the only girl I could ever love."  The worker asked, "Do you want her name then?"  "Nah, this way if she says no I can reuse it."


Jesus was here in Bethany in chapter 11 when He raised Lazarus from the dead.  Now He's back, and this time it is in connection with His own death.  He is the guest of honor.  If we add it up, there's at least 17 people there, including the disciples, and a leper named Simon, in whose house this is held.  Many more are also gathered around.


Martha is in the kitchen, working, preparing the meal.  Since these are preachers, we can assume it is fried chicken, fried ocre, lumpy mashed potatoes, and biscuits.

Mary is in the living room, worshipping at the feet of Jesus.

Lazarus is with all the boys at the table, witnessing, answering their questions about whether he saw a tunnel or a bright light.


Put all 3 together and you have a balanced Christian.  Martha's work is important, as is Mary's worship.  And this isn't the only time this scenario happened in Scripture.  The other time is when Martha got mad that Mary wasn't helping.  [Mark 14]  Our text is later, and Martha is still working, but not frustrated, so she learned her lesson, because she also became a worshipper!  We also see Mary serving at times.  We need both work and worship.  If you just sit, you soak and eventually sour.  We take in spiritual energy when we sit, and we need to burn it up when we serve!


We couldn't be enjoying this service very well right now if it were not for the “Marthas” serving.  Several Marthas are sacrificing right now and ministering to kids and babies.  Somebody cleaned this place where we sit.  And you couldn't hear me well now if somebody wasn't willing to leave their family seat and run the sound, and be willing to have no thanks if things go well but plenty of glares if something goes wrong!  There would be no Sunday School for any age.  We would never enjoy food and fellowship, outings and activities, or special music without the servants who make worship possible...and both are vitally important!


If you don't have a place of service, we'd be happy to plug you in where you would best be blessed and be a blessing. 


Then there's Lazarus, who adds witnessing to work and worship. 

v. 9          Don't you know this guy could draw a crowd.  He was a walking witness.  There must've been a lot of questions.  Did it hurt?  Tingle?  Bright Light?  Did time pass?  Were you in heaven?  What was it like when you woke up?  Could you smell yourself?


You and I had a greater miracle happen to us, and we ought to be walking witnesses because we walk the resurrected life! 


Mary's Gift:

Mary is a deeply spiritual woman, constantly worshipping at the feet of Jesus. 

v. 3 

        It was a custom in those days to anoint a special guest with just a few drops of ointment or perfume on their head and feet.  It was an act of courteous kindness.  Hers was a precious ointment that was worth a full year’s wages.  She uses not a few drops, but pours the entire contents out lavishly.  This sort of oil was for anointing the dead, and she didn't pour it out on her dead brother a short while before!


Great Christians have appeared in all ages, and they have one thing in common – they live their lives with a reckless abandon when it comes to expressing their love for Jesus.  They sacrifice to such a degree that they are sometimes criticized for it, as Mary was.


If you choose to live the sold out Christian life, don't be surprised if you are criticized for it.  The Bible promises persecution for the serious Christian, who is faithful to more than just one service a week, who serves, and tithes, and sacrifices.  And often it's the very people in your life who are supposed to encourage you who will tear you down about it.  More about that next time as we see Judas' lowly attack...and Jesus' lavish adoration.


Mary is simply living out loud how she feels in her heart, and her extreme devotion overflows, and I tell you, that's a good thing!

Ill.—you see some face painter going overboard at a ball game and you say, “That’s great, they’re a fan!”  But you see someone get excited about Jesus and say, “good night, they’re a fanatic.” [disparaging]


Ill.—it’s like our deer hunters...they approach their hobby w/ a reckless abandon.  They spare no expense.  They have to have the right gun, clothes, truck, camper, the deer tags, and they can’t go out there w/out a scent so genuine that they probably collected the sample from Bambi herself!  They’ll spend big money, but no matter, you gotta get that deer!  Some of the guys wanted to take me one year, and I know about 4 o’clock, I see it every afternoon...but they wanted to introduce me to another one I never knew about!  But no matter, you gotta get that deer.  You’ll hike for miles, refrain from speaking, eat grubs and worms, but it’s all for such a great cause!  Rain, snow, freezing temperatures...these all pale in comparison to the prize that may be won by day’s end!


I’m not criticizing you if you choose this way to unwind!  I’m saying, would to God we could get so excited about serving Him, not in drudgery, out of duty, but w/ the same reckless abandon.


Why did Mary give this lovely, sacrificial gift to Jesus?

v. 7          Whether she understood or not, God led her to 'pre-anoint' Jesus for death...for what He's about to do for the whole world!  And when she did, the end of v. 3 says that a sweet odor filled the house, and it was the smell, not of perfume, but of love!  So, no matter where you went in the house, you could smell it, and it benefited everyone.  This is the spill-over effect!  She did not do it for everyone...she did it for Jesus.

        Now, when you do what you do for Jesus, there is a spill-over effect that benefits others.  A good missionary or pastor should do what he does for God, not just for the people.  Because there will be times that people won't be lovable.  Do what you do for God, who will always see it and reward it.  And inevitably, the blessings will spill over to the people as well!

        Sometimes it's those we do the most for who stab us in the back.  Well, that hurts, but not so much when you were doing it for God, who still sees and appreciates and lifts you up!


ill.--if you sing a special for applause then you are eventually going to get hurt.  Even if you sing to be a blessing to people, then you may quit when the people act un-blessable.  Some will talk, some will sleep, some will criticize, but if you are singing for the Lord, it doesn't matter!


It's all about the heart.  Matters of the heart are the heart of the matter.  It doesn't matter what anyone says about you if your heart is right.  God knows your heart.


ill.--Peter denied Christ just before His crucifixion.  What a huge let down that was.  And after Jesus' resurrection, the first time He sees Peter, what does He say to Him?  "Do you love me?" [3 times]

        We would have said, "I can't believe you were cursing, and denying, and being so fearful."  Jesus knew those were just symptoms of the real problem...a lack of love.  Jesus knew that if Peter would really love Him, the cussing would take care of itself [denying / courage issue]  Peter decided that day to love Jesus supremely, and served Him with reckless abandon, and wound up sacrificing his most valuable possession for Him, his life!


Now, how do you smell to God?  If the degree of your love was manifested today by way of a scent, what would the room smell like?


This I find deeply convicting, because I tend to stray off the path into distractions of life that aren't focused upon the Lord.  And most of us don't love God the way we think we do.  Our lives testify as to what we truly love.  Jesus said what we spend our money on speaks as to where our heart is! 


Consecration is sacrifice.  It is taking what is dearest to you, and laying it at the feet of Jesus!


ill.--a man loved his wife so much, that he sold something of great value of his to buy her some special expensive hair combs she had been wanting.  He sold his favorite pocket watch.  Unbeknownst to him, she had cut off her hair and sold it in order to have money to buy him a gold chain for that pocket watch.  Both wound up with gifts they could not use...and both kept them because of what they represented, sacrifice, and love.  And you could sniff either unused item, and it had the scent of love!


Consecration is sacrifice.  It is taking what is dearest to you, and laying it at the feet of Jesus!


What is your passion?  A person?  A hobby?  Your bank account?  A toy?  A collection of things?  It's ok to have interests, but we should have one great passion for the One at Whose feet we lay all our interests!


2.     The lowly attack of Judas.

v. 4-6      

Mary pours out this essence on Jesus.  And then Judas criticizes.  These are his first recorded words in the Bible.  And "here's your sign!"  The Bible says that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  What is down in the well comes up in the bucket!  What we say is an indication of what is in our heart. 


If you choose to live the sold out Christian life, don't be surprised if you are criticized for it.  The Bible promises persecution for the serious Christian.  And often it's the very people in your life who are supposed to encourage you who will tear you down about it.


In Numbers 12, Moses was criticized by his own brother and sister, just for doing what he believed to be the right thing.  He married a woman from Ethiopia, and they had a problem with it.  Sounds like prejudice to me, since there's only one race, and it's the human race.  "But didn't God say not to have mixed marriages?"  Yes, if you are talking about mixing a believer with an unbeliever!


You see how quick we are to judge one another, just for outward appearances?  We need to focus on ourselves.


ill.--A police investigator was looking for a convicted criminal on the loose.  He showed some men the profile pic.  "Have you seen this man?"

The first man said, "No, but I hope you catch this one eyed man."

        "Sir, this is a profile pic, he has two eyes."

The second said, "Haven't seen him, but he should stand out with just half a nose."

Frustrated, the investigator said to a third man, "I'm looking for a little help here, and I hope you are more objective than your friends."

        "Yes sir, and I can tell you that this criminal wears contact lenses!"

"Great, now you're helping me!  How do you know?"

        "Well, he couldn't wear glasses, he only has one ear!"


We are so quick to judge on outward appearance, and hasty to criticize.


Aaron and Miriam also criticized Moses' leadership, when of all people, he needed encouragement, trying to lead millions of whiners thru the desert!  They were just jealous [Bible tells us].  And it's easy to criticize from the cheap seats.  People of low character compare themselves with others instead of with the Lord, and tear down others so they can rise in their own eyes, rather than humbly allowing God to grow them and lift them up in His way and timing!


How about David, who brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel.  He was so overjoyed about this great victory that he went jumping, skipping, and dancing thru the streets, praising the Lord!  He was wearing an ephod, the equivalent of a loin cloth.  I'd say he must've felt great liberty to do this!

        So, he gets home and his wife has nothing good to say about the great victory, rather, said, "Well, if it isn't the dancing king, who struts around in his underwear!"


We can find things to criticize if we look for them, but does it have to be all we see?


3 things we find in the heart of Judas:

  • His words were critical.

Mary pours out her heart, and she is met with criticism...just like Moses and David gave their all for God, and all their closest family can do is point out the negative. 


"Some people don't intend on giving their best to Jesus...and they don't want you to either."

        It makes them feel badly...brings them under conviction.


ill.--D.L. Moody was criticized by a preacher who said, I don't like the way you do soulwinning.  You are too brash.  Moody asked him how many souls he had won that year.  "None."  Moody said, I'm sorry, but I like the way I do it better than the way you don't do it.


Usually, the most critical people are the ones in the grandstands kicked back watching others do the work.  And there's not much that drives a wedge between a believer and his God more than a critical Spirit. 


We're an imperfect church filled with imperfect people.  I feel sorry for church hoppers who waste their years looking for the perfect church, never putting down roots and growing themselves.  If ever you find the perfect church, don't join'll ruin it!


Now, we need constructive criticism, ideas, and suggestions.  This is a family, and we all bring something to the table that can benefit.  I'd rather be helped by criticism than ruined by praise.  Just make it helpful in spirit, and shared only with someone who has the power to change it.


A case of stinkin' thinkin' is contagious.  But so is the attitude of gratitude.  Judas' attitude spread.  Matthew records this same story:

Matthew 26:8-9

8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

John reveals that Judas got this started, but all the disciples caught the bug, and jumped on the stink wagon!


Be careful who you let have your ear.  I've seen people allow their ears to become the church trash can, and now, in the words of the Duck Dynasty clan - "They gone!"




  • His words were covert.

Secret or disguised

v. 5          'the poor' - how thoughtful of him!  By the way, it's always easier to give away somebody else's money, isn't it?  Could someone please inform Washington D.C.?


v. 6          Judas was so trusted, he held the disciples' money bag they lived off of.  He was greedy, and saw this 'waste' as a missed opportunity to add a big lump of value to the bag he would eventually run off with.  And 'missed opportunity' is a good describer of this man.  Imagine, spending 3 years at Jesus' side, seeing the miracles, hearing the teachings.  And yet, he rejected Christ, betrayed Him, and in guilt committed suicide.

Acts 1:25
... from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.

That's a reference to hell, where Judas, a devil from the beginning, never saved, is still at today!


Judas had a lot of missed opportunities, and we are often guilty of the same.  If you've never been saved, don't miss the opportunity given this day.  I'd rather go to hell from a distant jungle tribe which has never heard than from a church pew where I had chance after chance, and let it get away.  The Bible teaches there are levels to judgment, and we don't want to know what ANY of those levels are like.

        Then there's Christians who never intend to sell out for Jesus, 100%.  You've got a foot in the kingdom and a foot in the world.  I wouldn't want to stand before God in that condition.  It's a missed opportunity! 


Remember:  Many name their daughter Mary.  No one names their son Judas.

Proverbs 10:7
The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.

Ecclesiastes 7:1
A good name is better than precious ointment...

Mary had both!


  • His words were confused.


Judas didn't value the eternal, but the temporary. 


No doubt, you have people in your life who would think your giving to God is a waste!  They take that same money and buy a new Smartphone every 6 months, cigarettes, and lottery tickets!


Mary got it right.


3.     The lavish approval of Jesus.

vv. 7-8     One last time, back to Matthew's account.

Matthew 26:13
Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

I'm fulfilling this prophecy right now!


ill.—a few years ago I was so blessed to visit Ecuador, and the jungles and rivers of the Auca Indians, where Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and 3 other missionaries were slaughtered when they landed their plane on the beach.  They knew the dangers going in, and weren't even willing to defend themselves with their guns, because, as they said, 'these people aren't ready for heaven.'  [aren't saved]  It was Elliot who wrote before his death, "He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose."  It was from heaven that he looked down and saw that whole tribe later get saved because of his sacrifice.

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