Religion of The Senses

The reading for today in the devotional book that my wife and I go through together was the opening verses of Mark 14. In that chapter are recoded events which happened two days before Jesus was crucified.

In one story we are told that Mary poured Nard on Jesus’ head. This was an extravagant act, consuming a resource that was worth a year of a laborer’s wages. The bystanders are indignant over this waste, but Jesus confronts them, indicated that this anointing was in preparation for his burial.

Truth be told, prior to today, when I read this story, I struggled to understand why the pouring was not a waste. What is the point? I believed this act was a good thing because of worth of Jesus to receive such worship. Also, I believed it to be good because Jesus said it was. But the disconnect between my understanding and my belief caused my sentiments to be closer to those of the bystanders who criticized her act.

As I read these verses today, it struck me that when Jesus was being flogged, when he was staggering through the crowd carrying his cross, as he was being removed from the cross, that fragrance would emanate from him. I wonder if those who were witnesses to this event ever after were reminded of it when they caught a whiff of nard. Were the soldiers who taunted and beat him reminded of him when they smelled it? What about those along the route to the crucifixion site and those who removed Jesus from the cross?

We have been created as sensual beings. The creator has intended that those senses be used in the worship of him. For example, the communion table is rooted in the senses. The feel of the bread or the cracker, the smell of the wine or grape juice, the taste of both. All five senses are engaged as we partake at the communion table.

Perhaps you have had a particular smell remind you of a time an place that you had not thought about in a long time. Perhaps Mary was lead to anoint Jesus to give the witnesses to the crucifixion additional sensual input by which to remember the event.

In this I see the God who gave us the senses, appealing to those senses to reach out to us. I find comfort in that.