A few days ago my neighbor of less than a year passed away. Though he was not particularly elderly, it was evident that his health was in decline for as long as I knew him. I don’t think he had ever done much as far as ‘church’ is concerned, but as he sensed his end coming it appeared to me that he was increasingly resting in Jesus.
A little over a week before he died I got a call saying that he wanted to be baptized. He stated that he had always meant to be but had never gotten around to it. When I mentioned that baptism is demonstrating total identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus from the dead, there was an immediate and affirmative response. As I reflect on it, the words of 2 Peter 1:10 come to mind. ‘Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.’ It seems to me as if that is what he was doing.
About 6 hours before he passed I went to visit him at the hospice care where he was. One look at him when I walked into his room indicated that he was pretty far gone. His eyes were closed and his breathing labored. His sister, who had been standing by him, stated to him that I was there to pray with him. I was stunned at his immediate response, which was a big grin and an effort to put out his hand for a shake. My praying for and reading to him about the pure river of life described in Revelation seemed to signal that it was time to let go. Later that evening he slipped away.
As I have pondered this experience, I wonder if the response that he had toward me isn’t the response he got from the Lord. ‘Lord, Philip is here.’ ‘He is?’ Big grin! Welcoming handshake! I don’t know whether that is how it works or not but I have been comforted that that might be a little picture of the warm welcome that the Lord extends to His own when their sojourn here is over. The next verse from the passage in 2 Peter seem to fit. ‘A rich entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’
Isn’t that what we are all looking for? And what wonderful hope is held out to us in Scripture. Hebrews 6 speaks of those who are ‘enlightened,’ ‘have tasted the heavenly gift,’ ‘are partakers of the Holy Ghost,’ and ‘have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.’
Setting our minds on things that are above (Colossians 3:2) is a bit elusive when we are in our prime but we know that this human life will end for all of us at some point. Quieting our hearts and minds on the Sabbath is a wonderful discipline in giving ourselves a chance to taste afresh the goodness of God and the wonderful welcome that is waiting for all those who are His.