By Samuel Clough
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:2 (ESV)
The fragrance that arose from the cross up to the very throne in the heavens was rich and so full beyond the glorious act of the atonement. Jesus did far more on the cross than atone for sins. Recognizing this does not take away from His atonement because that was a massive work that no other being in the universe was capable of accomplishing. Just the consideration of it requires a holy tremble within our heart. However, we must look beyond the doctrine of the atonement and look into the person of YHWH if we are going to perceive the totality of what was happening on that cross. Looking through the atonement to the person will ultimately make the atonement even more rich because it will become rooted, not just in an action of sacrifice, but in the person that accomplished that act.
The cross was an offering with a fragrance and aroma that we cannot even understand. As Jesus of Nazareth hung naked gasping for each breath, an incredibly fragrant aroma rose from that cross and permeated the entire universe. There was a smell everywhere for those that perceived it and it was the very fragrance of God Himself. As Jesus hung there exposed and dying, He exposed for all men the very heart of God. Nowhere is the very nature and identity of God on display as it is on the cross. On that tree, God exposed Himself and demonstrated God as God in fact is. YHWH was put on full display as the Jewish Son of God hung dying, innocent of every accusation. All could see exactly what the nature of God was like by viewing the Son of man gasping, self sacrificially, on that cross. The cross was YHWH at His most vulnerable moment as He willingly allowed His life blood to escape.
As Jesus of Nazareth gasped for breath, tenderly exposed for all who stood by and mocked, a fragrant aroma filled the universe. Every angel could see an aroma rising up just outside of Jerusalem as God was being put on display. From the cross, a divine smell rose and permeated the universe. Angels stood shocked as they smelled the very incense that they have smelled coming from the throne for millennia rising up from a broken, dying Jewish man on a cross.
Demons recoiled in anger and hate as they smelled that fragrance. The were fixated on the suffering and death of the Son of God, but as He hung dying their glee turned to disgust and anger. The fragrance that was rising from that cross and increasingly permeating the universe was their first hint that their plan had gone very wrong. They sought to kill God and as God lay dying, the very fragrance of God will being spread throughout the universe, from the depths of Sheol to the highest heavens. They sought to destroy His revelation through Jesus of Nazareth and instead caused His fragrance to abound.
It is a real tragedy that our minds have been dominated only by the act of redemption on the cross. That act was massive and deserves our focus, but there is another revelation on the cross that is critical and that is the very revelation of the person of YHWH. We are interested in the atonement to secure a release from hell, but what if YHWH is primarily concerned with the revelation of Himself to us over and above our rescue from hell? What if our escape from hell is not primarily about our pleasure, but rather about YHWH’s desire to have a people that know Him intimately and long for deeper companionship with Him so deeply that they cannot even conceive of pleasure apart from intimate union with YHWH and the knowledge of His heart?
We are called to be the bride and I am afraid that most of us are more content with being relatives of God rather than a bride. We want the benefits of knowing the King and living under His benefits, but do we have deep desire for the King Himself? Do we want to lay aside our name and our desires in life so that we can unite with His name and know His desires? Has His happiness become our happiness? Are we truly devoted to YHWH “for better or worse” or are we simply using Him for His benefits?
I am convinced right now, at this moment, the heart of YHWH is pained that so few really gaze deeply into that moment when He exposed Himself tenderly and even vulnerably so that mankind could see the heart beat that is at the center of God. What heartache must be in His holy heart as He reflects on how few can even smell a token of the fragrance that filled the entire universe in His most vulnerable moment when He made His bold declaration of love for a race of beings; most of whom could hardly care if He exists.