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Through Bible stories, a pastor shares the peace found through Jesuswith a dying woman.
The call came from the hospice people in Elizabethton. Helen Neptune was in hospice care. She was being eaten up with cancer, and she wanted to speak to a Lutheran minister. Would we be willing to come? Yes, of course!
When I went to visit Helen, I found her lying in a hospital bed in her living room. We chatted, and I learned that her life had been challenging. She had one son and a granddaughter. She'd been involved in church only a little and hadn't been involved for a long time. She recounted some things for which she was ashamed; her conscience was bothering her, and knowing that she was nearing the end of her life, she was understandably nervous, even afraid. Cancer was ravishing her body; guilt and fear were torturing her soul.
So we began to talk about Jesus. The first time there I told her the account of Jesus and his disciples on Easter evening. Remember? The disciples were locked in a room, afraid even though some of them had already seen the risen Jesus. Jesus came popping into the room and said, "Peace be with you," then he showed them his hands and his side. Helen and I talked about that: "Those nail scars on Jesus' hands were the proof positive for the disciples that Jesus loved them and forgave them. Jesus loves and forgives you too, Helen. And just like those nail scars brought peace to the disciples, they bring you and me peace too."
Helen told me that she'd never heard that before. Then she said, "Now that makes me feel better!"
During the next few weeks, my vicar and I visited Helen several times. We told her the account of Jesus healing the paralytic; she'd never heard it. I told her about how when Jesus died, he said, "It is finished," that our sins were forgiven in full, completely. Again, she said she'd never heard that.
Helen was pretty weak, so usually the visit would last 15 to 20 minutes. We'd chitchat for a few minutes about her past, about her son, her granddaughter (on whom she doted!), or whatever. Then I'd say, "Well, let me share a segment of the Bible with you." She'd say, "Okay!" and she'd rally her strength and pull herself up on the bed as much as she could, eagerly leaning forward.
One time I told her about Jesus walking on the water. That day he'd fed the five thousand. Then he'd sent the disciples across the Sea of Galilee, and it had gotten to be about the middle of the night. "And so the disciples were tired, they were worn out, they're working their tails off trying to row across this windblown sea, and they look up and . . . they thought they saw a ghost! But do you know who it was?"
"It was Jesus!"
"And so Jesus assured them that they didn't need to be afraid because it was him. Well, one of Jesus' disciples named Peter wanted to walk on the water too, so Jesus told him, ‘Come on!' and out Peter went, walking on the water!"
"Really? Wow!" she interjected.
"Yeah! And Peter walked across the water toward Jesus, and as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he was fine. But then he got distracted! He saw the winds and the waves, and he began to sink! Do you know what Jesus did?"
"Jesus reached in and grabbed him and pulled him up out of the water. And Jesus will keep on rescuing you and me too."
Eventually Helen had to be hospitalized. Her body was frail; she struggled to breathe. When my vicar or I would come into the room, she'd often be sleeping, but when she woke and saw one of us, she was eager to hear something from the Word, as weak as she was. We told her about how Jesus promises that in his Father's house, there are many rooms; Jesus was preparing a place for her. We reminded her again about the resurrection accounts; Jesus has risen! She therefore knew, for sure, that her sins were forgiven. Several times Helen said things like, "I feel so much better now. I'm not afraid to die anymore. I have peace."
One day I shared with her the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. "Yes, we will die; but Jesus will raise us from the dead, just like he raised Lazarus." We prayed. Helen smiled. That was Thursday.
But before I saw her again, Helen had lapsed into a coma. When I went to the hospital on Friday, Helen didn't seem to know I was there; she was on morphine to control the pain. Her son and I talked Scripture. We talked about Jesus being the Good Shepherd, about Jesus ascending to heaven, about Jesus' death and resurrection. Could Helen hear us? I don't know, but the Word of God is powerful!
Then, Saturday morning, the painful, labored breathing stopped, and the angels carried her to Abraham's side. She went to heaven.
Her son, Steve, called me and shared the news. We got together in the afternoon and read Revelation 7:9-17. We rejoiced in the fact that Helen had gotten her "white robe." No longer could sin plague her! All its vestiges had been removed forever and ever. We talked about the palm branches: in Jesus' day, palm branches were symbols of either victory or royalty. On that Saturday, Helen received her palm branch. She'd won! She was now an eternal winner, royal, part of God's eternal kingdom! God himself had wiped every tear from her eyes. She'd received the glorious, glorified body that God has promised to all believers. She had won.
Steve told me that while she was in the hospital, she had said to him, "You keep in touch with Pastor Kock."
"Yes, Mom," he had said, in a somewhat perfunctory manner.
Helen responded, "No, I mean it! You . . . keep . . . in . . . touch . . . with . . . Pastor . . . Kock!" To which Steve responded more enthusiastically, "Yes, Mom, I will!"
Why did she want that? Because she knew the peace that the Word had brought her. God had rescued her, using the Word! And so what did she want? She wanted her loved ones to stay connected to the Word because then God would deliver them from evil too! Just as he will do for you and me.
And if God does that for you before he takes me home, please give my greetings to Helen!
Author: Thomas Kock
Copyrighted WELS Forward in Christ
Editor's note: Helen's son, Steve, is now in Bible instruction class.
Are you looking for opportunities to share Jesus with others? Getting involved in your community is a great place to start.
Do you feel unprepared when people ask you about your beliefs? Prepared to Answer and More Prepared to Answer, two books available through Northwestern Publishing House, help you share your faith by supplying Scripture-based responses to common objections to Christianity.
I'm a Christian and love the Lord dearly but have a hard time proclaiming him at work. As soon as someone mocks God, I do nothing to defend his holy name. Why is that?
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