Fidelis ad Mortem: Portrait of Esther John, 2015
Oil on linen, 24 x 36 inches
“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10)
Esther John was born into a well-to-do Muslim family in South India in 1929. Named Qamar Zia, she grew up in Madras. Her father transferred her to a Christian school when she was seventeen, and there she saw the love of Christ in her teacher and came to understand the Good News through the scripture lessons. As a girl, she became a secret believer in Jesus Christ. She would read her Bible at night under the covers, using a flashlight.
In 1947, her family moved to the newly formed country of Pakistan. When her family sought to compel her to accept an arranged marriage, she fled to Karachi, where she worked in a orphanage. In 1955, she was baptized, taking the name Esther John. Her fellow Christians recognized her gift and call as an evangelist, and she attended the Bible Training Center in Gujranwala.
She eventually came to live with the Whites, a veteran American missionary couple. Esther often rode her bicycle out to the villages to visit people in their homes and in the fields, teaching the Christian faith to women and girls. Everyone loved her. One morning in February 1960, Mrs. White called Esther to breakfast. “Esther, your breakfast is ready,” but there was no answer.
She found Esther lying on her bed with her head smashed in. The police inspector thought such a brutal murder must have been a crime of passion, and operated on the assumption that Esther must have had a lover. He carefully read her diary and all her letters, and at last announced, “Esther did indeed have a lover. It was a man named Jesus.” Later, he added, “This girl was in love with your Christ.”
She was chosen to be one of the Ten Martyrs of the Modern World representing the many Christian martyrs of South Asia. In 1998, the Archbishop of Canterbury unveiled her memorial statue, along with those of nine others, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey.
The gold letters surrounding the cross on her Bible signify the principal accomplishments of Christ through the cross:
GR: Glory Revealed The infinite moral perfection of God’s character is unveiled here: his holiness, love, justice, grace, mercy, wisdom, goodness, integrity, etc. are on full display in the cross of Christ.
HV: Honor Vindicated As God’s honor is inviolable, the just penalty must be paid for every offense against him to permit a principled forgiveness that upholds his honor. Jesus Christ, the Son of God alone could pay the price for the sins of the world. Because man sinned, a representative man had to pay. But because of the immensity of sin no mere man could possibly pay. For this reason, the Word who was with God and who was God became flesh to become the Lamb of God who alone could take away our sin.
EC: Evil Conquered When Christ died on the cross, Satan was defeated, demoralized and doomed. The accuser of God’s people was forever silenced.
SS: Sinners Saved By paying the just penalty for the sins of the world, the Savior accomplished our redemption for us.