What’s That Smell?


2Cor. 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;
2Cor. 2:16 to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?


When the Roman conquerors returned home after having been at war they would be greeted with a great parade.  These parades included the burning of incense; the aroma of victory which would arise up and out of the city.  For the citizens of the Empire this scent was a smell of comfort and of peace, a reminder of the victory!  At the same time the soldiers would be returning home with the spoils of war, including the conquered enemy.  As they approached the city the smells would waft up into the air, but for the captured prisoners the scent did not mean victory, but the very same smell meant death, for they would be killed just outside the walls of the city, never to enter inside the gates.

This is the imagery that Paul is evoking in this scripture.  The victor is Jesus Christ and those who preach the good news about Jesus, those who are his followers are carrying with them the very scent of life and of victory.  Every where we go there is the life-giving aroma of Jesus Christ. 

However, for those who reject Christ, the aroma or fragrance is not one of life, but becomes one of death for when the great day comes, they will not be able to enter into the city gates.  The Lord will look at them and say, “I never knew you.” 

Finally Paul asks, “Who is sufficient for these things?”  Wesley would tell us that no human is sufficient for such things — that we do not produce this aroma on our own, but that it is the working presence of the Holy Spirit.


I talk a lot about “reflecting the Image;” being a reflection of Jesus Christ in the world today.  However, let’s consider what it might be like to be the scent of Jesus in the world. 

Scents evoke very strong memories and feelings.  I love the smell of baking cinnamon rolls.  It reminds me of my growing up years and Saturday evenings at home when mom would bake bread in preparation for Sunday.  Just walking by a Cinnabon store brings up all kinds of wonderful thoughts and memories.

Just as these earthly smells can evoke strong and powerful memories, so can the aroma associated with Jesus Christ.  When we are a reflection of Christ we are seen, but when we are the aroma of Christ we can seep through the air and down the block and into the nook and crannies of peoples’ lives.  There is something incredibly far-reaching about being the aroma of Christ.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit our lives are to be that sweet aroma of Christ, one that draws people to Jesus.  Only by prayer and abiding in him can we get to know him in such a way that the sweet smell of Jesus lingers on our very beings.  That way, as we walk through life the smell of Jesus flows from us and reaches a very needy world, drawing others to him.  This sweet aroma is God’s prevenient grace reaching out to a world that so desperately needs him.

Sadly there will be those who will experience the sweet smell of Jesus over and over again in their lives, but will continually reject him.  In doing so they will some day find themselves outside the gate and instead of the aroma being one of life and victory, it will signal their death.  We have the opportunity to respond to the aroma of Christ.  Our response will determine whether it is a sweet smell of victory or the bittersweet reminder of rejection. 

If we live our Christian lives in such a way that we can be the sweet aroma of Jesus Christ we will be a reminder that will draw people to Christ.  As parents we are the sweet aroma of Christ in the home, a that scent will continually be a reminder to children of the way back to Christ.  As professionals working in the world colleagues should be touched daily by the sweet smell of Jesus and throughout life be drawn to the Christ.  My prayer for us today is that Jesus will so permeate who we are that we will leave a lasting impression on those around us with them wondering, “What’s that smell?”


Lord, please help me to be the fragrance of Jesus today.  Amen.


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