This afternoon at 3.15pm (UK time), John Stott died in his retirement home at St. Barnabas College. He was 90.
With him at the time were a number of good friends, including his dedicated, long-time assistant, Francis Whitehead. The friends were reading 2 Timothy and listening to Handel’s Messiah when he went peacefully to be with the Lord.
Many will write of the staggering, incomparable impact John R. W. Stott has had over the past 70 years or so. But when I think of the impact Uncle John has had, two things keep coming to mind.
Firstly, The Cross of Christ. It was a book I read early in my Christian life, and it unlocked the riches of Jesus’ death in a way that nothing else had. Through his meticulous, unflashy writing, Uncle John made me feel something: that if eternity did not exist, it would have to be created in order to accommodate the cavernous, tumultuous worship sparked by Christ’s self-sacrifice.
Secondly, a smile. Uncle John was walking into a prayer gathering at All Souls one Tuesday evening about 10 years ago. We did not know each other at that point. But he smiled at me with such overwhelming humanity and warmth that it had two immediate effects. Firstly, I myself started smiling in a way I don’t think I have since. And secondly, I instinctively looked behind me, thinking he couldn’t possibly be smiling like that at me.
For a man of his achievements, his humility was breathtaking. John Calvin said, “The more a man shall lift up himself, the further he shall go from God.” If that is true, have I ever met anyone who was closer to God than Uncle John Stott?
And now, right now, he is enjoying an intimacy with God that even he could not have imagined. All because of that precious sacrifice he gave his life to comprehending, commending, and cherishing.