“Dear Woman”

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The crucifixion of Jesus lasted about six hours. This was mercifully short compared to what typically happened to crucifixion victims. It was hard enough for Jesus to get enough air just to breathe, let alone enough air to talk, so His words are few but precious! From 9:00 until about noon, He speaks three times; from noon until about 3:00, He has no recorded words; at 3:00 there are four final statements that come pretty close together. 

As Jesus speaks His final declaration before wordlessly suffering for the next three hours, let’s take a look at who was there. They were people who deeply cared about Jesus, and people about whom Jesus deeply cared: His mother, His aunt, the mother of one of His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and His beloved disciple John. 

Also notable was who wasn’t present on Golgotha: none of Christ’s siblings or other close relatives. 

This last word from Jesus before His long silence was an incredibly loving word. As the oldest of His siblings, and with His earthly father Joseph dead, Jesus had head-of-the-household responsibilities, especially the care of His mother Mary. 

When Jesus speaks to her, He says, “Dear woman.” This is a term of kindness, respect, and endearment. To both His mother and to John, there is a Greek word that is omitted in some English translations of the Bible: Behold. Since Christ’s words were at a premium, this word was Jesus saying, “Listen very closely. Pay careful attention to this important word I’m about to speak.” 

To His mother, Jesus says, “Dear woman, behold your son.” Jesus was saying, here is one on whom you can depend. And to His dear friend Jesus says, “Behold your mother.” Literally, Jesus was asking John to care for Mary as though she were his own biological mother. 

Think about the dying declarations we’ve already heard. To those who treated Him so horribly, Jesus said, Father, forgive them.” This was a word of forgiveness that required agape love. To the hardened criminal crucified next to Him, Jesus said, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” This was a word of salvation that also required agape love. 

Agape love is only possible in a regenerated heart. It’s an utterly selfless love that Jesus described this way: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). To forgive the unforgivable, to grant salvation to a lifelong criminal, takes the other-worldly agape love. We expect this from Jesus. 

But there are two other loves in this scene. When Jesus says, “Dear woman,” He is expressing this natural love of son to mother. This Greek love is labeled storgé. C.S. Lewis calls this “the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves.” To His dear friend John, Jesus speaks a word of philos love. C.S. Lewis says philos is “the love between friends as close as siblings in strength and duration [and] the least natural of loves.” 

Jesus cared deeply for His mother and He deeply trusted His friend John. This tells me an important truth: Jesus doesn’t just care about spiritual things. 

In fact, there isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too: “He had to be made like [us] fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). 

Sadly, I think we frequently hold on to some cares because we think they are too small or too insignificant—or maybe “unspiritual”—so we think they are unworthy of Christ’s attention. Let me say it again: There isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too! 

Jesus intercedes before the Father’s throne of grace on our behalf. He knows exactly what to ask for because He experienced all of our earthly pains Himself. Then the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit into our hearts to give us the love and strength we need (see Hebrews 4:14-16; Romans 5:5). 

When Jesus showed us His full love—storgé, philos, and agape—He made it possible for us to fulfill His command: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). 

Jesus showed every kind of love so that we can live every kind of love! As we live as love-filled people, we show others the path to Christ’s love for their own love-starved hearts. 

Jesus spoke this loving declaration from the Cross to show us that His love covers any need that we have to encounter. Let me repeat it again so that you don’t forget it: There isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too!

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series on the dying declarations of Jesus from the Cross, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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C.S. Lewis On Agape

C.S. Lewis“Of course taking in the poor illegitimate child is ‘charity.’ Charity means love. It is called Agape in the New Testament to distinguish it from Eros (sexual love), Storgë (family affection) and Philia (friendship). So there are 4 kinds of ‘love,’ all good in their proper place, but Agape is the best because it is the kind God has for us and is good in all circumstances. There are people I mustn’t feel Eros towards, and people I can’t feel Storgë or Philia for; but I can practice Agape to God, Angels, Man and Beast, to the good and the bad, the old and the young, the far and the near. You see Agape is all giving, not getting. Read what St. Paul says about it in First Corinthians Chap. 13. Then look at a picture of Charity (or Agape) in action in St. Luke, chap 10 v. 30-35. And then, better still, look at Matthew chap 25 v. 31-46: from which you see that Christ counts all that you do for this baby exactly as if you had done it for Him when He was a baby in the manger at Bethlehem: you are in a sense sharing in the things His mother did for Him. Giving money is only one way of showing charity: to give time and toil is far better and (for most of us) harder. And notice, though it is all giving—you needn’t expect any reward—how you do gets rewarded almost at once.” ―C.S. Lewis

Fuller Love

Fuller loveLove is not always flowery and sweet, where everyone gets along, and no one is ever mean or even unkind. Actually that’s not love; that’s selfishness. You’re saying, “I will love you because it makes me feel good. I get something special out of this when I am kind and loving to you.”

The ancient Greeks had different words for love. Whereas we use love for food (“I love my pasta”), and the same word for special people (“I love my wife”). But we all know that I’m not really saying my wife and a plate of spaghetti are on the same level.

So the Greeks had a word for love for the inanimate (like food and music), and a word for this-makes-me-feel-so-good (like sex and alcohol), and a word for treating someone humanely or kindly (sometimes called brotherly love). These are well-known loves, but they are very fragile. The law of diminishing returns says that each time I experience one of these loves, its ability to please me the next time is slightly reduced, until at one point this thing/person no longer satisfy me at all. In fact, they may even cause my stomach to churn in nausea.

But there was one more word the Greeks used for love, that the biblical writers used almost exclusively. This word (agape) is not tuxedos and dancing gowns and chandeliers. This love shows up in work clothes, with callouses on its hands and knees, because it’s determined to serve someone else no matter what!

This is the kind of love God exhibited toward us—God shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

And this is the kind of love Jesus commanded us to exhibit toward others… even toward those we think are unloveableBy this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another…. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” do that. (John 13:35; Luke 6:32-33)

This is the kind of full love that those apart from Jesus Christ do not know, but they can see it and be drawn to it if Christians will demonstrate it. Henry Drummond said this—

Never offer men a thimbleful of gospel. Do not offer them merely joy, or merely peace, or merely rest, or merely safety; tell them how Christ came to give men a more abundant life than they have, a life abundant in love…. Then only can the gospel take hold of the whole of a man, body, soul and spirit. …Only a fuller love can compete with the love of the world.

Let’s show the world a fuller love, and in so doing we will show them Jesus!

I will be continuing my series on Loving The Unloveable next Sunday. Please join me!

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