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People need hope more than ever. As followers of Jesus, we have this promise in Colossians 1:27.....Listen to Radio Podcast featured on Moody Radio April 17 2024 

Tuesday-Smells

 

I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

 

Philippians 4:18

 

The last thing I want to start is some kind of controversary. After all, that’s the very last thing we need nowadays. Everybody seems to disagree about even the most minor things. Stuff that no one would have thought of a few years ago. But if what I’m about to say makes you upset or angry, I’m sorry. That’s not my intent. OK, here goes.

 

I think smell is the most powerful sense we have. There I said it. Let the ranting begin. I know that sight is a miracle: live, in color and in 3-D. Yes, hearing is a mystery for how vibrating molecules can send information through the air. Touch gives us instant feedback about the physical world around us. And taste is just too good to be true.

 

But for my money, smell can take me back in time like nothing else. Whenever I smell a turkey cooking I’m put immediately thrown back into my mom’s kitchen on Thanksgiving morning. The aroma of Old Bay seasoning throws me back to great times of sitting around a picnic table, covered with newspaper, with hot steamed crabs piled high. The perfume that Mary Ann wears takes me back to our wedding day.

 

While Paul wasn’t thinking about any of these things, the gift that the Philippians sent him threw him back to another place. Another time. It was a powerful reminder of the change that God had made in their lives. He looks at their generosity, their sacrifice, and all the trouble they had to go through just to get it to him. And it just blew him away. He was bowled over with humble gratitude and thankfulness to them. And to God.

 

Why else would Paul say that their gift was a fragrant offering? Think about the fact that most offerings were put into fire. And what happens when you put something into fire? It just doesn’t disappear; it creates smoke and smalls.

 

  • Smoke is a picture of the offering rising up to God.

  • Smells are a reminder that God receives the offering.

 

But something’s not right. Nothing had been destroyed. Nothing was put onto an alter and burned up. There was no wood. There was no fire. There was no smoke. There were no smells. So, how could Paul say that their gift was a fragrant offering?

 

The key is that their actions and attitudes were pleasing to God. They recognized that everything that they had become in Christ was through the Apostle Paul. They had been transformed from being strangers to God and made acceptable to God through Jesus death on the cross.

 

By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, we have peace with God.

 

Romans 5:1 CEV

 

You see, Paul was in need and the Philippians sent a large gift to him. Epaphroditus traveled far to carry their gift to him. Back then, there was no way to “wire” money, or to even mail a check. There was no app to send money to someone else. It had to be carried and hand delivered. The Philippians went to a lot of time, trouble, and expense to do all this. But why? Why in the world would they do this? Because they realized just how much it cost God to send Jesus to the cross.

 

Let’s put aside all the physical pain and suffering for a moment. Don’t focus on how one of his closest friends betrayed him and the rest abandoned him. Or that everyone spit on him, made fun of him. Mocked him. While horrific, these weren’t the worst. The absolutely worst thing that happened, the most excruciating pain possible in the history of the universe was that, for the first and only time, God the Father and God the Son were separated.

 

From eternity past they had been together. Total love. Total transparence. Total intimacy. There was nothing hidden from one another. They gave glory to one another. Always pointing to the other. Letting the other one go first. Giving the other first place. It’s with that kind of a relationship that Jesus’ words on the cross cut us like a dull knife, ripping our skin, flesh, and hearts. When he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?[1]” it’s the greatest hurt of all time. It was a cry of pain like no other.

 

Now I know that some of you have gone through pain. Some more than others. But some of you have been betrayed by the one you loved most. The one you trusted more than anyone else. The one you opened yourself up to like no one else. And they betrayed you. They hurt you more than words can say.

 

God knows what you went through more than anyone else because he experienced it too. As great and awful as you pain was, his was greater. And he walked into it, knowing how bad it was going to be. He did it for one reason. For you. To bring us back to him. Through his suffering we’re made whole with him again. How can we do anything but give him everything we are? And that too is a powerful and beautiful smell that God longs to smell.

 

Noodling Questions

 

  • Describe the memories that a specific smell brings to mind.

  • How is Jesus’ sacrifice so much worse than anything we could experience?

  • On a daily basis, how should that sacrifice energize us? Change us?


[1] Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34

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