By Clay Hallmark
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Lexington
John Paton is not a name that we hear very often when we think of great missionaries. Paton served for 10 years as pastor of a growing Scottish congregation, but God burdened his heart for the New Hebrides, a group of Pacific Islands inhabited by unreached people. Moreover, the inhabitants were cannibals.
Paton set his heart on one particular island. Twenty years earlier, a missionary couple had gone to that island. They were killed and cannibalized, so it was no surprise that many people attempted to dissuade Paton from going to that particular island.
Paton wrote, “Amongst many who sought to deter me, was one dear old Christian gentleman, whose crowning argument always was, ‘The cannibals! You will be eaten by the cannibals.’ ”
John Paton replied to this man, “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”
At age 33, John Paton, accompanied by his wife, traveled to the New Hebrides Islands. His wife and a newborn child died within months of their arrival, and he was left alone. He dug their graves with his bare hands. Paton persisted in the face of multiple threats, and in time witnessed countless cannibals across the New Hebrides come to faith in Christ.
The cannibals heard the same message the former missionary couple had brought. Some of those violent people began to think, “This is the same message. If it means this much to these people to bring that message, perhaps we should consider what they are telling us.”
Consequently, a great movement of God brought many of those people into the Kingdom of God. Paton’s service and God’s blessing challenged churches across Australia, Scotland and the western world to rise up and make the gospel known among the peoples who are toughest to reach.
From the death of these missionaries, life eternal and life abundant came to a formerly unreached people group. Why? When it comes to Jesus, we learn that life comes from death. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. What do we learn from these passages today?
First, we learn that Jesus alone gives life! Jesus is giving Martha hope with these words. In response, Martha shows her faith in Jesus when she says, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come into the world.”
In this world we face many difficult days. Life is oftentimes very challenging, yet we must not forget that this world is not our home if we are followers of Jesus. We are just passing through.
This is why Paul said this in Philippians 1:21, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Real life in the here and now and in the hereafter is found in Jesus alone!
Second, we learn that Jesus proves Himself as Lord! On that first Easter morning, the angel of the Lord exclaimed, “He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said (Matthew 24:23).”
Thomas struggled with the resurrection, even after hearing Jesus promise him and the other disciples He would rise again.
Yet, Jesus proved Himself then and He proves Himself today to be a living Lord. This living Lord is alive in our own lives if we have trusted our all to Him.
This Easter we should remember the words of Christian artist Jeremy Camp who sings this in his song “Same Power:” The same power that rose Jesus from the grave … The same power that commands the dead to wake … Lives in us, lives in us!