“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’” – 1Corinthians 1:18
About two weeks ago, when he first approached the Sentinelese people on North Sentinel Island off the Coast of India’s Bay of Bengal, 26-year old John Allen Chau yelled to them from his kayak “I love you and Jesus loves you.” After authorities recovered his journal, John’s entries record his determination to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world’s oldest, most remote and violent tribe.
Anthropologists date the Sentinelese people to the Stone Age. Anup Kapoor, an anthropology professor at the University of Delhi, stated that
“We have no clue about their communication systems, their history or their culture. What we know is that they have been killed and persecuted historically by the British and the Japanese. They hate anyone in uniform. If they see someone in uniform, they will kill him on the spot.”
Protected by the government of India, they are cut off from the rest of the world. It is illegal to venture within 3 miles of the island. These are the people that missionary John Chau felt needed the hear the gospel.
“I preached a bit to them, starting in Genesis. One of the tribesmen shot me with an arrow – directly into my Bible which I was holding in front of my chest. I broke off the arrow on page 453 of the book of Isaiah. I ran away, with tribe members chasing me. I had to swim a mile back to the boat at the mouth of the cove.”
As he tried to communicate with the Sentinelese, he wrote that he understood the risk of trying to stay on the island with them: “I’m scared. There, I said it. Also frustrated and uncertain – is it worth me going a foot to meet them? I don’t want to die!” He recorded why he decided the risk was worth it: “I think it is worth it to declare Jesus to these people…This is not a pointless thing. The eternal lives of this tribe are at hand.”
It was on November 16 that John convinced local fisherman to leave him overnight on the island for the first time. Up to that point, he had visited the island but always returned offshore to his kayak. Here are some of his final journal entries:
“God, I don’t want to die. Who will take my place If I do? Father, forgive him and any of the people on this island who try to kill me. I love you all and I pray none of you love anything in this world more than Jesus Christ.”
On the morning of November 17, as the fisherman came back and surveyed the beach where they dropped John off, they watched some of the tribesmen drag his body on the beach with a rope. A final journal entry says
“Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed. I love you all.”
Skeptics have ridiculed John Chau’s efforts to “push Jesus on them”, saying he was “self-centered, arrogant, deluded and foolish.”
Our verse this week predicted that exact response from a nonbelieving world. You see, John Chau had been praying and planning for this mission trip to North Sentinel for years, since he had graduated from Oral Roberts University. This wasn’t an impulsive adventure for him. As his parents told the news media, “John loved Jesus Christ and loved the Sentinelese people.” It’s a perverse culture we live in, when you can openly criticize a martyred Christian who yells “Jesus loves you” to a hostile group, but you are called Islamophobic for criticizing a Muslim who yells “Allah Akbar” during an attack on peaceful bystanders.
We only have to review history to see that our theme verse holds true. There have been many such skeptics who have mocked Christians for a faith in Jesus Christ that leads them to forfeit their own lives.
In 170AD, Greek historian Lucian of Samosata derided the early Christians for their devotion to Jesus Christ, even at pain of death: “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account… You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.”
As the apostle Paul once told the young church in Rome,
“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)
John Chau would completely agree with Paul. And John Chau committed his eternal soul to this ultimate truth.
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance” – Article #323