The holy anointing oil was one of a kind. Experts were recruited in its creation. It was crafted according to exact specifications laid out by God. People were forbidden from trying to re-create it. There was to be no fraudulent anointing oil in the community.
The tabernacle, the ark of the testimony, the table and its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and its utensils, and the basin and its stand were to be anointed. God said, “You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy.”
But that is not all. Certain people also were to be anointed – Aaron and his sons, the priests. They were set apart by God. They were consecrated. They were made holy.
And God said of the holy anointing oil, “It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person.”
When Jesus was anointed at Bethany, it was with very expensive perfume (John 12:1-3). We don’t know the exact composition of this oil, but we do know it didn’t come out of the temple. It wasn’t the holy oil prescribed by God in Exodus 30.
And the person who anointed Jesus’ body, wiping his feet with her hair, was not a representative of the temple.
The rules were broken for Jesus. He was no ordinary person. His anointing oil didn’t not overflow from the temple, but it bubbled up below – from among the unwashed masses of humanity.
We might say this was unholy oil. But when it touched Jesus – the Son of God – it became holy.
Jesus needed nothing to become holy. He simply IS holy.
Those who come into contact with Jesus Christ in faith become holy as well. We know for certain that to touch this man yields change. We can think of the woman with the blood problem. “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well” (Mark 5:28). Miracles occur in the lives of those who reach out to Jesus in faith.
The chief miracle is that we, too, are made holy. “Whatever touches them will become holy.” That referred to the anointed things in and around the tabernacle. It also applies to us, as we reach out to Jesus in faith – and to those faithful seekers who come into contact with the people of God.
The apostle Paul described the life of the church as people who are following Christ in a victory procession – like people following a victorious king marching through the streets of a conquered town. The sights and sounds and smells of this procession are remarkable. Those who watch it stand in awe.
And there is an aroma at this victory procession. Jesus is the Anointed One – the Messiah. “But thanks be to God, who in Christ Jesus always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
This has echoes of Exodus 30. When a person entered the tabernacle grounds or came near to a priest, the scent of that holy anointing oil would fill his or her nostrils. The person would know he or she was in the presence of something not “ordinary.”
Paul went on to say, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).
Something pleasing takes place when we gather as a church. We see our brothers and sisters in Christ – our fellow passengers to eternal life – and we rejoice. We are at home. This is a holy thing that happens when we gather.
And those who would be saved can sense the same thing as they encounter a member of the church out on the street or in the workplace or at the grocery store. There’s something pleasing and attractive about one who has been made holy by Christ.
And those who would not be saved – the reaction is much different.
“Who is sufficient for these things?” Paul asked.
We keep on going, spreading the fragrance. We are ambassadors for Christ, people who represent him on earth – the image of God, the bearers of the good news.