Sunday, March 21, 2010


What Does Worship Smell Like? John 12:1-11

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on March 21, 2010. The lesson is on John 12:1-11 and Mary anointing Jesus' feet. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

What Does Worship Smell Like?
John 12:1-11

Most of us can relate some memory (whether good or bad) to a particular smell
We smell that item and immediately relate it to our memory

Some Smells and Memories
a. The great skunk killing—another day in Lynchburg!
b. Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter
c. Fudge or other sweet smells
d. The smell of freshly brewed coffee
e. The smell of a good cigar: Memories of dad!
f. Farm smells: animals, ploughed ground, crops, etc.
g. Spring smells: new blossoms, new growth, new flowers
h. Perfume/cologne

We all have similar memories and related smells
Those smells permeate our lives and cause us to return to those memories when we encounter them

But did you know that worship has a smell?

Our passage today (John 12:1-11) reveals that worship may smell in one of three ways

What does your worship smell like?

The Scene: Look Who Came to Supper
John 12:1-11

The dinner at Bethany
Occurs six days before Passover

The guest list
a. Simon the Leper (?): Mark 14:3-9; Matthew 26:6-13 (May not be the same dinner, but the similarities are intriguing. Simon could not host a dinner if he was still a leper, so the implication is that Jesus may well have healed him!)
b. Lazarus the formally dead man (see John 11)
c. Jesus
d. The Disciples
e. Martha, Mary, and assorted gawkers

The foot washing
This act interrupts the dinner. The guests are reclining (probably on their left sides as they eat right handed from a table on the floor), and Mary interrupts the dinner and conversation to wash Jesus' feet. This is not the appropriate time. If she wanted to clean his feet she should have done it BEFORE the meal. Most likely she was performing a burial rite! At any rate, her act disrupts the order of things and changes the smell of the room from dinner to sweet perfume.

The three “scents” of worship
1. Extravagant
2. Egocentric
3. Observer

Let’s take them in reverse order

1. The Observers
John 12:9: The large crowd

The Observers who are primarily in it for the adventure
a. Came not to learn, but to gawk
b. Came for the rubbernecking, not the relationship
c. Is more concerned about the next “big event” than in truly meeting God or serving others
d. Doesn’t want to miss something that may be worth gossiping about later

Observer worship smells like burnt eggs: Watching but no involvement

What does your worship smell like?
a. Are you in it for the adventure?
b. For the miracles?
c. For the spectacle?

2. Egocentric Worship: Judas and the Chief Priests
John 12:4-6; 10-11

Egocentric worship
a. Sounds very pious on the surface
Notice that Judas spoke up with a “concern”
b. Seems concerned about legitimate issues
Why not give money to the poor?
c. Focuses on selfish desires
Wants money for himself (Judas)
Doesn’t want to lose authority (the chief priests)

Egocentric worship wants to know: What’s in it for me?

Egocentric worship smells like old used sweat socks

What does your worship smell like?
a. Are you in it only for selfish gain?
b. For what you can get out of it?
c. For recognition and prestige?

3. Extravagant Worship: Mary
John 12:1-3; 7-8

O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi: The story of a married couple who give up what is precious in order to show extravagant love to each other. It is the story of a young couple named Della and Jim. They were a poor couple but they loved each other deeply. Each one had their own unique possession. Della's hair was her pride and joy. When she let her hair down it was like a robe on her back. Jim had a gold watch, which his father had given him.

On the day before Christmas, Della had exactly $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She wanted to get him something he would really like, but she knew that she could not get much with a $1.87. So, she went and sold her hair for $20.00. With the money she bought a platinum chain for Jim's precious watch.

Jim came home from work that night. When he saw Della's shorn head, he was left speechless. Slowly he handed her his gift. His gift was a set of expensive tortoise-shell combs with jeweled edges for her lovely hair. He had sold his gold watch to buy them for her. Each had given all he or she had to give.

Extravagant Worship
a. It is precious
Cost Mary almost a year’s worth of money
300 denarii
A year’s salary

May have been saving it for her own (or Lazarus’) burial
This nard was not normally used to wash dirty feet
It was used to bury loved ones

b. It is motivated by love and is intimate
Mary uses her hair
Women did not let down their hair in public or in front of men other than their own husbands
This was a very intimate act and showed Mary’s love for Jesus
She anoints his feet (an act of kindness or a burial ritual?)

c. It is humble (i.e., she kneels at his feet, washes his feet, serves Jesus)

d. It is obvious/pleasant to others
The smell remained on Mary (i.e., her hair)
The smell filled the room (i.e., all the guests smelled it)
The smell stayed on Jesus as he entered the week of his Passion

“The delicious fragrance ran down over his shining hair. It enfolded His body with its delightful aroma. Even his tunic and flowing undergarment were drenched with its enduring pungency. Wherever he moved during the ensuing days, the perfume would go with Him. Into the Passover; into the Garden of Gethsemane; into Herod’s hall; into Pilate’s patio; even into the cruel hands of those who cast lots for his clothing.” Philip Keller

The smell remained with Jesus through:
His last supper
His prayer
His trial
His beating and crucifixion

e. It permeates everything

f. It pleases Jesus

Extravagant worship smells like an expensive perfume

What does your worship smell like?
a. Are you extravagant?
b. Are you serving?
c. Are you intimately involved?
d. Does your worship overwhelm the place with a sweet fragrance that lingers?

Story of the little boy and the bus minister (Michael Hensley)
The little boy had never seen a church or an offering before, and when the plate was passed he realized that he had no money to give to Jesus. He took the plate and set it in the aisle. Stepping in he says: "Jesus, I don’t have anything to give you today, but just me. I give you me!"

Mark 14:8—”She has done what she could”: Jesus' words about Mary's act

What does your worship smell like?

What can we do that will show extravagant worship this week?

First, stop counting the cost. Give your very best.
Mary didn’t dip her finger into the perfume and sprinkle a bit on Jesus. She “wasted” it on him.
“Waste” some time serving God this week. Pick one hour of your schedule and spend it only in service to God or to others for God. Don’t scrimp!
“Waste” some money that you’ve been “saving”! Give to that ministry or that event.
Help someone and do it with no boundaries.

Second, learn to let your worship permeate your life and circumstances
Don’t stop with a private worship
Be extravagant in public too
Be bold in sharing your love for Christ—find someone that needs encouragement, or someone who needs salvation, or someone who just needs a friend, and spend time dumping love on them in an extravagant manner

Live so that your worship smells like an extravagant perfume that overwhelms all in its range (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

So, what does your worship smell like?

Thanks for reading!

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I enjoyed reading your blog. I love the John Wayne picture. May God Bless You.
I stumbled upon your blog last night and was blessed by reading your post on "What does your Worship smell like?"

I have taken your theme and through some prayer plan on speaking on this topic myself with some of my own insights.

Thanks for the kind words! I would love to hear or read your version of the John 12 message if possible. May God bless your work!
Beautiful explanation of how to worship. This gives me a better understanding of how to worship. Thanks for letting God use you in this manner. I was truly blessed.
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