“She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Matthew 26.10b; Mark 14.6b). John’s account (John 12.1-8) tells us that Mary is the lady who has anointed Jesus. Merging the accounts, we come to understand that this perfume was poured/placed on Jesus’ head and feet (at least).
Jesus was a man, a Jewish man. Although the Jews had forms of hygiene, deodorant was not as prevalent, or effective, as it is today. Jesus was constantly on the move, sitting beside camp or cooking fires; outdoors, and- face it, men tend to give off an aroma with such a lifestyle. That seems difficult to hear; we would like to picture our Savior as welcoming in every respect, and body odor does not exactly scream “hug me”. In part, I believe this is where Mary’s actions come in.
In John 12.3 we read, “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Not only does Jesus smell nice, but the odor of all the people gathered with him is covered. Jesus says that Mary has “anointed my body beforehand for burial” (Mark 14.8), to “prepare me fore burial” (Matthew 26.12). John covers this thought in a slightly different way, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial.” Jesus is relating this lovely fragrance with his burial in all three accounts. It is Jesus being buried that we unite with in baptism (Romans 6.3-4a). That burial, our baptism, washes away the stench of sin (Acts 22.16). Since we are united with Him, the stench of our dirtiness is washed away, and the washed-clean smell?- a perfume. If you enter the home of someone who smokes in their home, you can smell it on you, others can too. If you enter the grave of the nard-scented Savior, that fragrance should follow you. Can others tell you have been to Jesus? Can they smell Him on you?
In John 12.32-33 Jesus, speaking of His death, says it will “draw all people to [Him]”. Not to a bloody, bruised, stinky man who was executed by Rome, but to the anointed sacrifice of God for the cleansing of all mankind. A sacrifice pleasing to God and inviting to those near enough to smell the Truth.