by JUSTIN TAYLOR

Shortly after 4:30 this afternoon, the residents of Phillips neighborhood in south Minneapolis—the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the United States—may spot a familiar sight: a trim man in his upper sixties, bespectacled with thinning gray curly hair, leaving his two-story house to walk to church.

John Piper will make his way north across the bridge suspended above “Spaghetti Junction,” with its dull roar of freeway traffic, past the East Village Market grocery store, past Augustana Health Care Center for the elderly, past Andrew Residence for the mentally broken, and past the Elliott Twins apartments for low-income residents. And then he’ll arrive at a place he dearly loves, Bethlehem Baptist Church, where he has been preaching the glory of God in the gospel week in and week out for 33 years.

The walk takes seven minutes—six if he is running late, eight if he is especially enjoying the weather. He once counted his steps: exactly 600 paces from his front door to Bethlehem’s old main door. He has made this walk at least 10,000 times in the last 33 years—the equivalent of walking from the east coast to the west coast in the United States and back again. Six million steps.

It’s not the last time he will make this walk. But it is the last time he will do so as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Tucked into the coat pocket of his charcoal suit jacket will be his compact ESV Bible, and in his worn leather briefcase will be a cheap folder, and in the folder will be a 11-page double-spaced typewritten sermon manuscript, with an array of handwritten circles and connecting lines and underlines and exclamation points and notes.

Within a couple of hours the singing will cease, and he will rise from the front-row pew, place his sermon manuscript on the wooden pulpit, offer an introduction, and then read fromHebrews 13:20-21, the text for his Easter sermon that will double as his farewell sermon. (You can watch the live-stream tonight around 6:10 PM U.S. Central Time.) After he reads the benedictory text that begins, “Now may the God of peace who brought again our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep,” Piper will undoubtedly remind his beloved flock that the transition from one undershepherd to another is undergirded by a dying and rising Great Shepherd who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

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