The sweet fragrance of Jesus
”Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” (John 20:6-8 ESV).
I wonder if you’ve ever been near a dead body that had been unrefrigerated for a few days? Clearly Martha had for she was dismayed that Jesus asked for the stone to be rolled away from Lazarus’ tomb as he had been dead for 4 days. She knew that the smell of the rotting corpse would be staggering.
If Martha was worried about the smell overpowering them as they stood at a distance, think about the smell that must have been anticipated by Peter and John when they entered Jesus’ open tomb. However, no smell of rotting corpses had ever been in this tomb for it had never been used before and there was no stench this time. After perusing the scene they came to the only conclusion possible – Jesus had risen.
Paul confirms that there was no smell of death for he writes that (David) “foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:31 ESV) and again, “he whom God raised up did not see corruption” (Acts 13:37 ESV).
Ironically, rather than smelling like decaying flesh, Jesus, in His death was sweet-smelling: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2 ESV).
Should we be surprised that Jesus has a sweet smell? He is described in Song of Songs: “His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh.” (Song. 5:13 ESV). If you’ve ever been in the flowering alpine meadows of Switzerland in the springtime, I think we must be coming close to the sweet honey smell of Jesus.
What’s more, when we join with Jesus we are led by Him “in triumphal procession …(and) through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14 ESV). Paul is likening us to the incense bearer before the triumphant Roman conqueror, disseminating perfume all around us as we shout praises to our victorious vanquisher and strew the path of our Saviour with flowers and palm fronds.
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9 ESV).