The Fragrance of Worship

Your giving is intimately linked with the fragrance of your worship. Let’s explore that.

We explore the the plant Spikenard and how the essential oil is extracted.

More importantly, we explore the significance of how the Spikenard oil is used in the Bible in an act of worship and devotion.

The Fragrance of Worship
Your giving is intimately linked with the fragrance of your worship. Let’s explore that.
Come with me on a journey to the remote Himalayan mountains of Nepal, India and China. In altitudes of 3500 – 5000 m in the sub-alpine and alpine meadows there are very fragile eco systems. Growing there is a tender aromatic herb that is generally found clinging to steep rocky cliffs, ravines and crevices and stony and grassy slopes. Sometimes also found in small depressions, in wet meadows and by the banks of the rivulets in the high valleys and peaks. The plant grows to about 1 m in height and has pink, bell-shaped flowers. Its botanical name is Nostradarcus Jatamansi.

Otherwise more commonly known as Spikenard.

The plant is collected by local harvesters under difficult conditions as you can image. The rhizome of the plant is so aromatic that when they are uprooted from the soil by hand, their warm, sweet fragrance spreads out in air.

To distill essential oils for commercial sale a huge volume of plant material is needed. Thus the more plant material it takes to get 1 kg of essential oil, the higher the cost of the essential oil. Spikenard oil is extracted from the crushed and dried rhizome by steam distillation and only yields 1-3% and is used in perfume, incense, and other medical applications.

So to yield 1kg of essential oil you need to collect up to 100 tons of rhizomes.

Today the commercial value of Spikenard is approx R 8000 – 12000 per kg. So, Spikenard is an expensive product, harvested under difficult circumstances.
In ancient times, the essential oils were then sold in perfume bottles such as an alabaster flask and then sealed to retain its fragrance. The neck of an alabaster jar then had to be broken open to release its contents.

This now as a backdrop, it brings me to the story of Mary of Bethany, sister to Martha and her Brother Lazarus.
We read in Mark 14:3-4 about the Anointing at Bethany.

“And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of Spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.”

In the parallel scriptures of John and Matthew, we see that she anoints his feet also.

John 12:3

“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of Spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. “ And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

I imagine her pouring the Spikenard out of the alabaster jar, over his head, dripping down his face and beard, over his garment and body right down to his feet.

So what is so significant about this picture?
She recognized the authority of Jesus. She recognized Jesus as her King of Kings.
I image her with very long hair which she then uses to rub into his feet. Here she recognized that Jesus was worthy to be worshiped, to receive glory and honour and power. He was her Lord of Lords. She set her heart and affection on the Lover of her soul. She anointed Jesus with the costliest and most valuable thing she possessed.

Should we not do the same? Mary poured out all she had without reservation and as she abandoned herself to the Lord, and then the house was filled with the fragrance of her worship.

She was also prophetically anointing him for death and burial. Jesus refers to that in John 12: 1-7. Let’s read the story in context:

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

Just as Jesus was about to pour out his life and give everything she poured out all the costly Spikenard perfume.
It cost her everything, her life’s saving. We also see her faith in action here. It was an act of worship and devotion. So the prophetic image of Spikenard is one of extravagant and utter abandoned worship.

Will you recognize Jesus as your King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
How extravagantly will you worship Him?
Will you offer up the fragrance of your worship to Him in your giving?
© Désirée Borchert