Chapter four (the last chapter) of Proclaiming Jesus is about proclaiming the gospel weekly through The Lord’s Supper. After talking about some reasons why Communion is undervalued, and why we (at IDC) take the bread and cup weekly, I close with the following story about a faithful missionary serving the Supper for the first time to an unreached people. I love this picture.
Serving Communion to Former Cannibals
John G. Paton (1824-1907) met opposition when he decided to take the gospel to the peoples of the New Hebrides islands. He had experienced ten fruitful years of ministry in Glasgow, but was prepared to leave it all for the mission of Christ. One man objected saying, “The cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals!” He wasn’t joking. About twenty years earlier two missionaries went and were cannibalized (Piper, “You Will Be Eaten by Cannibals”). He responded to this man’s protest saying:
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 honoring 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. (Ibid.)
The old Gentlemen, left the room, raising his hands saying, “After this I have nothing more to say” (Ibid.). They offered incentives to stay but he denied. His people grieved when he decided to depart. He said, “The opposition was so strong from nearly all, and many of them warm Christian friends, that I was sorely tempted to question whether I was carrying out the Divine will, or only some headstrong wish of my own (Ibid.). Paton believed God was leading him to this mission field, and so he went.
After many trials and difficult seasons, Paton reported the unspeakable joy he experienced later when he served the first Communion to a group of new believers at Aniwa (where eventually many came to know Christ). He said:
For years we had toiled and prayed and taught for this. At the moment when I put the bread and wine into those dark hands, once stained with the blood of cannibalism but now stretched out to receive and partake the emblems and seals of the Redeemer’s love, I had a foretaste of the joy of glory that well-nigh broke my heart to pieces. I shall never taste a deeper bliss till I gaze on the glorified face of Jesus himself
(Paton, John G. Paton, Ch. LXXIII).
Every time I read this story, I well up with tears. What a powerful picture. This story also reminds me of my friends who are laboring among an unengaged people group right now. To their knowledge, this large number of people has no Christians. No church has ever been planted among this people group. Because of this, we’re praying for converts, and for a new church to be planted. I pray for the day in which my friends can serve the bread and the cup to a group of new believers! I pray for the day in which my missionary friends know the joy that Paton shared, as they tell these new believers:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26, ESV
Let’s proclaim Jesus until he comes.