THE FATHER’S SACRIFICE — A COMMUNION MEDITATION BY JACK COTTRELL
In the late 1970s, my family and I visited with the missionary family of Samuel Gonzalez in Merida, Mexico. This is located in the Yucatan Peninsula, the narrow pointy eastern projection of Mexico that points out toward the state of Florida. This was the northern edge of the homeland of the Mayan Indian group, and we saw many of the ruins of the Mayan culture.
One place we saw was the famous Mayan pyramid known as Chichen Itza. Within a short walking distance from the pyramid is one of the most sacred worship sites for the ancient Mayans, a sacred CENOTE, or well. This section of Mexico has very few above-ground rivers and streams. Most of the waterways are below-ground, with many underground rivers of flowing water. At various spots on the surface there are openings that expose this subterranean water source. Here people draw their water, and churches perform baptisms. The opening (the cenote) at Chichen Itza is about 170 feet across, and about 65 feet down to the water.
This cenote was extremely sacred to the Mayans. It was known as the “well of sacrifice,” where people worshiped the Mayan deity called CHAAC (their rain god, thought to live in the cenote) by casting into the water their valuable possessions. These were sacrifices intended to win the deity’s favor, by appeasing him for sins that might make him withhold the rain needed for their crops. It was very important to keep CHAAC happy, and thus the sacrifices were offered.
About 1904 certain individuals began the process of dredging and digging in the accumulated mud at the bottom of this sacred cenote, to see what kind of sacrifices had been offered by the ancient Mayan worshipers. Many valuable items made of gold and jade were found. But also recovered were many human bones, including the bones of small children. This confirmed the legend that the sacrifices offered to CHAAC included living human beings, whose hands and feet would be tied and who would be flung alive into the depths of the cenote.
Imagine with me, if you will, a father — so concerned about his own sins that he was willing to tie the hands and feet of his own child and throw the child alive to his watery death, hoping somehow to win the favor of this cantankerous deity.
How terrible! you say – and you are correct! How could a father give up his own child, especially in an effort to make up for his own sin? The sickening thing about this is how futile it was – it was all for nothing! There is no corn deity named CHAAC. And we know that even if they had been worshiping the true God, there is NOTHING we sinners can do or give up – no matter how great the sacrifice – that can make up for our sin and win the deity’s favor!
But the worst thing of all is that such an effort to do something spectacular to make up for our sins is SO UNNECESSARY! It is unnecessary because the true God, the God of the Bible, already loves us! And he loves us so much that HE has already made the only sacrifice that can truly make up for our sins. He loves us so much that He gave up HIS only child to save us from our sins, and rescue us from sin’s penalty!
This is the message of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When the eternal Logos entered the world as the infant Jesus, it was as if God the Father were flinging HIS only Son into the dark pit of this world, ultimately to die on the cross. And he did it because he already loved us, and wanted to save us from our sins!
The message here is this: it’s not what WE do; it’s not what WE give up; it’s not what WE sacrifice that makes us right with God. It’s what GOD gave; it’s what JESUS sacrificed that makes the difference.
We don’t take the Lord’s Supper as some kind of accomplishment or good deed that makes up for our sins of the past week. We take these emblems — the unleavened bread and the grape juice — to remind us of what God has already done, of what Jesus has already given up, to save us from our sins.