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  • Kathleen Brewer

"The Science of Scent: Exploring the True Cost of Devotion to Perfume"

Why do you wear perfume? What is your favourite perfume? How much a year would you pay for it? Do you wear it every day or only for special occasions? I used to wear it until one particular night while on a date I sneezed all evening, so I decided it wasn’t very helpful.


            I did a little research, and according to, Emma Wallin said in 2023, “The most expensive perfume in the world is “Shumukh”. It goes for $1.29 million/ounce.” I don’t know about you. But I don’t think my petty cash can afford a bottle this month, or the next 20 years for that matter.


Perfume has been used for centuries. Ladies used it as fragrance to make us feel attractive, to feel fresh or, to anoint bodies for burial. In the book of John 12:1-11, we find it is six days before Passover. Jesus arrives in Bethany at the home of Lazarus. Now if you remember Lazarus had leprosy and died; it was Jesus who brought him back to life and healed him. Martha, Lazarus’s sister, we find her in the kitchen busily preparing a meal for Lazarus, Jesus, and the disciples.


            In comes Mary, Martha’s sister, carrying a twelve-ounce jar of an expensive perfume made from the essence of nard and she sits at Jesus’ feet breaking the alabaster jar and “..she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.” Verse 3. The alabaster jar was made of hard marble stone. This kind of jar is extremely hard to break, you have to hit it hard to break it. It is filled with a very expensive sweet-smelling perfume ointment made in India and brought to the Middle East. This jar and perfume were given to a young lady (at marrying age) to give to her husband as a sign of devotion and commitment or to prepare a body for burial. It costs more than a year’s wages for a soldier or a servant.


Mary was showing her love and devotion for Jesus but what she didn’t realize was she was preparing Jesus for his death and burial.  Judas was upset, he thought Mary was wasting the perfume. He thought the jar and perfume should be sold and the money given to the poor. But Jesus knew what was in Mary’s heart and Jesus knew he was soon to die.


What could you and I do to express our devotion and commitment to God? That alabaster jar of nard was probably the only thing that Mary had of any worth. Martha showed her devotion by cooking this special meal, Mary worshipped at Jesus’ feet. How can we show Christ our devotion and commitment today?



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