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On Death and Dying

April 3, 2016
Blog April 4

It seems I have hardly been home lately.

I arrived home from India to the news that my father-in-law’s time was surely at hand. He had been battling a slow moving cancer now for several years, but now it has progressed to his vital organs. The disease had made its way to his brain, causing his left side to be unresponsive. In a very few days, he went from walking around, to being unable to move. He was placed into the hospital, and I, along with my wife Kathy, boarded a plane to Saskatoon, to spend perhaps the last moments of time we will have with him on this earth.

I had a few things I wanted to tell him. First and foremost, I wanted to thank him for his daughter. I also wanted to thank him for making me feel so loved and accepted in his family. I told him of the many summers we packed our family into the car and drove from B.C. to Saskatchewan, and the joy of seeing our children playing on the farm. They testify that those trips were among their happiest of memories.

Ultimately, I wanted to reassure him that his faith in Christ had not been in vain. I wanted him to be strong, until the moment that Christ called his name and ushered him into His eternal kingdom.

I got a chance to say all those things. I am so grateful for that time alone with him at his bedside.

But I have also been reflecting about death and dying. I hate death. I think Jesus did as well. John 11 records the incident of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. As Jesus arrives on the scene, many are weeping. Mary tells him, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Verse 33 states, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.”

The Greek word, rendered “deeply moved” in English is interesting. The word carries with it a sense of anger and a genuine physical response. As if one shutters with anger, or has an angry grimace on his face. In the Greek world, that word sometimes is used of the snorting of horses at the start of battle.

I think what John describes is Jesus facing the death of his friend, and being ferociously angry at death itself. Here is the Lord of life standing and facing his great enemy – death. And like a horse – ready to charge into the heat of battle – he snorts in his spirit. This is his angry response to death. It sets the stage for his great work of raising the dead.

I hate death. But as I stood at the bedside of my dear father-in-law, I was again reminded of the precious truth found in Philippians 3:10. Believers in Christ are called upon to share in Christ’s sufferings and death, so that we might also share in his resurrection. Standing at the bedside of a dying believer reminded me of my Saviour’s death. And I was therefore also reminded that in Christ, death has truly lost its sting! For what is now before the believer in Christ, but only the portal that leads us into the presence of an undying eternity with Him?

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld is the national Bible teacher at Back to the Bible Canada. He has served as Senior Pastor, church planter, conference speaker and educator, and is known both nationally and internationally for his passion and excellence in expositional preaching and teaching.


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