One thing that really impresses me about John 1: 23 is the absolute surety that John has as he answers the Pharisees. He is unwavering in his purpose, and completely sure of what it is he's been called to do. I don't know about you, but I often become insecure as to what it is I'm really supposed to be doing here on earth. I know I've been called to be a wife and mother, a daughter and a friend, a follower of Christ. But it feels like my higher purpose, my calling from God is always wavering. Sometimes it's like I'm trying on different clothes. I do something for a while and it doesn't seem to fit. Then I try on something else, and often end up setting that aside. But there's one thing that all of us are called to do, without question. When you wake up in the morning, you are called, you are equipped, and you are led to tell other people about Jesus Christ. That part of your assignment is never, ever in question.
2 Corinthians 2: 14-16 says; “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 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?”
Everywhere I go, every interaction I have with another person is meant to be an interaction with Jesus Christ through me. Have you ever been around someone who has on way too much perfume? You can't get away from the smell, you can't not smell it. That's what I think Paul means when he says we are to be a “fragrance of the knowledge of him.” I think that literally means we are supposed to be so overwhelmingly scented with the love of Jesus Christ that people cannot get away from Him if they are in our presence. They are going to “smell” Him whether they want to or not. That's what he means when he says “to one a fragrance from death to death and to the other a fragrance from life to life.”
Upon first reading this can seem overwhelming, I can look at this and be completely overcome by my own inadequacy. It even looks like God himself may be questioning my qualifications. After all, verse 16 ends with the question; “Who is sufficient for these things?” Certainly not me, and that’s the truth if I’m trying to spread the fragrance of the gospel in my own strength. My ESV bible note on verse 16 reads: “Carrying a message of eternal life or death is a sobering responsibility. No one is worthy of this solemn task, but God qualifies us for it nonetheless.” “But God” (Eph 2:4): I love these two words because they tell me that something good is coming, that he is up to something that will increase my awe of him and my love for him. It’s a principle that is all through the scriptures.
I think John the Baptist had a hold of that assurance over two centuries ago. He knew that as a man he was completely inadequate for the job of preparing the way for the coming Messiah, but he also knew with such intimacy, the God that had called him to such a monumental task, and so he walked in confidence and boldness proclaiming the coming King.
As I was writing this morning, I prayed to be that sweet aroma of Jesus, an aroma that effuses love, that invites another to tell me her story knowing she won’t be met with shame but with love and understanding. Just like the sweet aroma of a good meal draws my family to the table knowing they’ll be fed, let the aroma of Christ in me draw those who need the bread of life and the living water to the table.