Adoniram Judson

Text: Mark 10:29-30

I remember when Kaleigh was young and Kaleb (her older brother) was getting birthday presents, she struggled. The same thing happened when Kyra was younger and Kaleigh was getting birthday presents. Both of them asked some form of this question: Where are my presents? Even though they understood it was their sibling's birthday, when it came time to watch them open presents (and they had zero gifts to open), they wanted to know: What's in it for me? What do I get?

Most of us have grown out of expecting birthday presents when it isn't our birthday, but we still want to do we are being treated fairly. We want to make sure we aren't getting a raw deal. And that is exactly what we see in our text today.

Passage Exegesis: Mark 10:29-30

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

The context of this passage is the interaction Jesus has with the rich young ruler. The young man has great wealth and possessions, but he knows there is something about Jesus he needs. He approaches Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. First, this is a massive question, and his asking of it of Jesus demonstrates the respect and authority he believes Jesus speaks with. He knows Jesus isn't just some guy. Second, in light of who he believes Jesus to be, and the nature of the question, you would think Jesus' answer is going to be something he takes extremely serious.

Jesus answers him that he should obey the commandments. This should have triggered the young man to admit that he can't keep the law, and that he fails to obey them perfectly. This would have led to an entirely different interaction with Jesus. But instead, he says he has done those things. It is clear to Jesus that the young man doesn't understand the extent of his sin and need. So Jesus goes straight to the root idol that gripped the man's heart. It is possible the young man doesn't even know what kind of grip it has until Jesus asks him to lay it down. Then it is revealed. Jesus tells him to sell everything he has and follow him. He makes a big ask. He tells him to forsake it all and follow Jesus.

Now, listen, we love to quickly dismiss this passage as being a specific call to the rich young ruler in this story, and not a generic call of every believers. And that is true. This is description, not prescriptive, as it pertains to the call to sell all. But what IS PRESCRIPTIVE is that Jesus' call to follow him means forsaking whatever is threatening to have your greatest loyalty. Watch this carefully: it means you have to be willing to lay down, give up, rearrange, turn away, and surrender anything Jesus points to if you're going to follow him. Maybe it is a relationship that needs to change or walked away from. Maybe it's climbing the corporate ladder. Maybe it is your precious leisure time. Maybe it is the career path you're pursuing. Whatever it is, and it could be anything: if it gets in the way of pursuing Jesus, you have to lay it down. The rich young ruler couldn't. It says he went away sad because he had great wealth. He chose the assurance, security, protection, and status his wealth gave him over following Jesus.

This is the context that prompts Peter and the disciples to say: We've left everything to follow you. What's in it for us? This guy walked away keeping everything. We followed you and lost everything. "What do we get?" is the heart of the question. Notice Jesus' answer.

vs 29-30 -- Jesus promises that nobody who has left material things or relationships behind in order to follow him and obey the gospel, will fail to receive a hundredfold NOW IN THIS TIME, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands, with persecutions, AND IN THE AGE TO COME eternal life. Please don't miss this: those who lay everything down to follow Jesus, and give up things for His sake, WILL RECEIVE BLESSING IN THIS LIFE, and ETERNAL LIFE TO COME. We often highlight the eternal life to come, and neglect the in this life part. Some wrongly get into a prosperity gospel that mistakes Jesus as saying if you give him X, he will give you XX in return.

There is a real cost to following Jesus. In fact, it may come at the expense of your life. It certainly comes at the expense of your comfort. You don't get to have it your way any longer. It's no longer about what you deem as truth or what you want to do. You live under the Lordship of Jesus. But the key point of this passage is Jesus is telling his disciples that they'll never regret it. They'll never leave behind anything that He won't abundantly reward them for. Let's not walk away from the reality of this promise. He's not promising that if you plant that seed money, more is coming in the mailbox. He's saying this: You'll never sacrifice beyond His provisions to bless you. You're not going to receive a 100x housing or mothers, the idea is that you'll be 100x compensated, we'll have 100x the value of all we forsake. This includes the pardon of sin, favor from God, His presence in trials and death, friends who become to us brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, but it can also include the blessing of a home, opportunities for experiences, leadership and influence, and so many other things.

But don't miss the entire context of the passage: there is a real cost to following Jesus, and that cost always includes laying our lives down in surrender, and sometimes it includes laying our lives down in death.

That sets us up today to understand the life of Adoniram Judson. His life is a living application of this passage. The goal of this message: That we would join the work that both Jesus and Judson died for.

Adoniram Judson:
On August 9th, 1788, Adoniram Judson was born in Malden, Massachusetts. He was the son of a Congregational minister known for being stern and humorless. Judson was intelligent. He started reading at the age of 3. He took navigation lessons at the age of 10. He studied theology as a child, and entered Providence College (now Brown University) at 17 years old and graduated as valedictorian before his 20th birthday.

During his time in college he came under the influence of atheistic beliefs of a close friend named Jacob Eames. He lost his faith (becoming an atheist), but kept it hidden from his parents. It was on his 20th birthday that he announced to them that he rejected Christianity and was heading to New York to become a playwright. Rather than being a playwright, he found himself as a part of a traveling stock company that cheated people out of money at every opportunity. He set out to leave New York and head west to see if opportunities were available there, and found himself one rainy night at an inn, and next door to him was a dying man. The rain poured down that night, and the agonies of death could be heard from the room next door and he was shocked into recognition that he was not where he was supposed to be. He pondered the question all night long about whether or not the man was ready to die. The next morning he learned that the stranger next door had died. He asked the landlord if he knew who the man was. He did. The young man was from the college in Rhode Island, it was Jacob Eames.

“Lost. In death, Jacob Eames was lost—utterly, irrevocably lost. Lost to his friends, to the world, to the future. Lost as a puff of smoke is lost in the infinity of air. If Eames’ own views were true, neither his life nor his death had any meaning. . . . But suppose Eames had been mistaken? Suppose the Scriptures were literally true and a personal God real? . . . For that hell should open in that country inn and snatch Jacob Eames, [my] dearest friend and guide, from the next bed—this could not, simply could not, be coincidence.”

The stunned Judson decided to return home to his parents. He was still was not yet a Christian, but the Lord was working on his heart. He was working through different intellectual reservations so he enrolled at the Theological Institution at Andover in 1810. His father was able to get him admitted as a favor because Judson was neither a professed Christian nor a candidate for ministry. In December of that year, the Lord brought him to the end of his resistance and he called upon Christ to save him. Six months later he would place himself under his father’s authority and join the church his father was pastoring.

He would soon be licensed to preach and was undergoing preparation toward pastoral ministry when he began wrestling with strong inclinations toward overseas missions. It was also during this time that he men Ann Hasseltine. She was born into a wealthy family and a life filled with parties, dining, and fashion. But she came to faith at 16 years old and determined she would live for Christ even if that meant forsaking it all. On February 5th, 1812, they were married to one another, and two weeks later they set sail for Calcutta, India.

Adoniram and Ann would dedicate themselves to missionary service and are the first missionaries to ever set sail from America. Catch that, up until that point, missionaries were sent TO America, now they are being sent FROM America. Judson is the first. They journeyed four months to get there. He knew that he would be working with the Baptist missionary William Carey, so he studied to strengthen his ability to argue for infant baptist (Congregationalist view) and to prepare himself to defend it, but in the process of studying, became convinced of the Baptist position. And on arrival in India, both Adoniram and Ann were baptized by Carey. However, they found out shortly after being in India, that tensions between England and America were going to prevent them from staying, but rather than return back to America, they chose to embrace a call to Burma.

The Judson’s arrived in Burma on July of 1813. It was a land filled with hostile, urnreached people. The danger was so pronounced, that William Carey told him a few months prior to him going that he shouldn't go there. It was filled with oppressive rule, wars among the peoples, raids, and zero toleration for outside religious ideas. Listen to this: every previous missionary to Burma had died or left. The Judson’s would be there 2 years before they ever received any financial support to meet their needs.

Adoniram immediately began learning the language. He didn’t spend his time trying to Westernize the Burmese (teaching arts and sciences, raising the standard of living, or establishing schools). He was focused on preaching and teaching them the Bible. The conditions were harsh. Adoniram and Ann’s first son died at only 7 months old. He was in Burma 6 years before his first convert. After ten years, he could only number 18 converts.

War would break out between England and Burma, and because he was white he was considered suspicious and imprisoned. Ann was left alone. After 11 months, the prisoners were march 8 miles to a prison for execution. But Ann’s pleading to spared his life. 6 months later he was released from prison to serve as an interpreter for the Burmese government with negotiations with the English. After the negotiations were complete, he was recommitted to prison. In total he was spend 17 months imprisoned. Ann helped support him while in there and continued in the work (she wrote a catechism in Burmese, translated the book of Daniel and Jonah, and is the first Protestant to ever translate anything in Thai when she translated the Gospel of Matthew). Shortly after Adoniram’s release, Ann’s body was broken down and weak, and she died of cerebral meningitis in 1826. She was 37 years old. She had 3 pregnancies with Adoniram (the first ended in miscarriage as they travelled from India to Burma, the second was their son who died at 7 months old, and their third Maria lived only 6 months after her mother’s death.

Adoniram was devastated. Three months later he would learn of his father’s death. He was 39 years old, his health was terrible, and his heart was broken. He had lost his entire family.

But his labors continued. He turned his attentions more fully to the translation of the Hebrew and Green Scriptures into Burmese. 7 years after Ann’s death, while traveling in area of Burma that was least civilized (and most despised), he met Sarah (the widow of another missionary who had since come). They married and had 8 children in 11 years, but only 5 lived past infancy. Sarah’s health would eventually begin to fail, and Judson was determined to get her help. So they set sail to America to get her the care she needed, but she died in route.

Judson stayed in America on furlough for 9 months. He didn’t woo the congregations with adventurous stories from the field, he preached the cross. His message, “Let me beg you, not to rest contented with the commonplace religion that is now so prevalent.” While there he met Emily Chubbock in upstate New York. The two were married and she travelled back with him to Burma in 1846. They worked together to finish the Burmese dictionary, which was completed in 1849. But shortly after its completion, Adoniram contracted a respiratory infection, and while attempting to travel to a better climate, died at sea on April 12th 1850 (61 years of age). His body was buried at sea.

In total, Judson worked in Burma for 38 years until his death at the age of 61. It is estimated that he helped bring 7,000 people to faith in Christ during his lifetime. He only took one trip home to New England, and that was after 33 years with no trips. He paid a massive price. But this is what he said about his commitment, “The motto for every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or schoolmaster, ought to be 'Devoted for Life.’” Today it is estimated that the Baptist convention, started by Judson in Myanmar (Burma’s new name) has over 3,700 congregations with 617,781 members. Countless fruit has come from the life and ministry of Judson. And it came because he was willing to pay the cost someone like the rich young ruler was unwilling to pay.

Unlike the previous weeks, and as I typically do in these messages, I’m not going to give a handful of points. There could be all sorts of take-aways from his life. But the resounding question I want you to wrestle with is this: What was possess a man to endure so much loss, pain, and hardship? What sort of person endures things of this nature on purpose and willingly?

The answer is this: Someone who is completely sold out to honor Christ, lives for Him, and obeys wherever He tells you to go. That’s who. Adoniram and Ann Judson are pictures of people obeying Christ. The Lord placed a call on them to go, and they went. Not everyone is going to be told to go to Burma, some of you are going to build businesses that can financially send people to Burma, and that’s your obedience. Some of you are going to go on short-term trips to support people who live on the ground. But obedience to Jesus, and trusting Him is the call of every believer.

And I remind us of Jesus’ words to us. Nobody who gives up wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, housing, or anything for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will be rewarded IN THIS LIFE and IN THE LIFE TO COME. We know Adoniram and Ann Judson have their reward right now. They are united to their children, to one another, and they see the fruit of their labors. But friends, do we believe that even in their hardships they were rewarded in this life with something greater than they gave up?

Judson was able to say, “I am not tired of my work, neither am I tired of the world; yet, when Christ calls me home, I shall go with gladness.” On another occasion he said, “We prefer one room in Rangoon to six in Boston. We feel that we are highly blessed.” Another time he wrote, “Thanks be to God, not--only for 'rivers of endless joys above, but for 'rills of comfort here below.’ "

This is the crux of whether we believe Jesus’ words or not. Do we take Him at His word? Do we believe the Judson’s were blessed even in their earthly hardships? Here’s what Adoniram said, “If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated suffering.” Ordered, planned, directed by infinite love and mercy, Christ’s infinite love and mercy. Judson could suffer because He knew who held his life and future.