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“If gold is what you prize so much, that you are willing to leave your distant homes and even risk life itself, I can tell you of a land where they drink out of golden vessels, and gold is as cheap as iron in your own country.”
These words were spoken to Vascco Nunez de Balboa and overheard by Francisco Pizzaro who was with Balboa when he “discovered” the Pacific Ocean in 1513. The land that was being talked about was Peru.
But it was another 12 years, not until after Magellan had sailed across the Pacific Ocean (1522), that Pizarro got his chance and started off from the little port of Panama in search of the golden kingdom of Peru.
His first expedition was a dismal failure; and after untold hardships Pizarro returned to Panama in a sorry state. Still undaunted in spirit, he again started forth. The land of gold was farther away than he had imagined, the coast was stormy and inhospitable, the natives unfriendly.
At last, however, an expedition was fitted out, and guided by the clever pilot Ruiz, who was well experienced in the navigation of the Pacific. They reached the island of Gallo, near the equator. Here they determined to wait, and send back for more troops from Panama, as there was clearly fighting to be done on the coast of Peru. But this proposal caused a great outcry.
“What,” faltered the faint-hearted, “are we to be left in this obscure spot to die of hunger?”
What did they care for lands of gold: they only wanted to go home. But the ships sailed away for help, and Pizarro was left alone on the far-off island with his discontented crew. They survived on crabs and shell-fish, picked up on the shore, till the two welcome ships returned well laden with food and men. By this time Pizarro’s men had made up their minds to return to Panama at all costs. Pizarro was determined to go on. Drawing his sword one day, he traced a line on the sand from east to west. Then turning to the south, he cried—
“Friends and comrades, on that side are toil, hunger, nakedness, the drenching storm, desertion, and death; on this side ease and pleasure. There lies Peru with its riches: here Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Spaniard. For my part, I go south.”
Saying this, he stepped across the line. The brave pilot and twelve others followed him, while the rest turned their faces homewards.
It was the crisis of Pizarro’s life. The little band sailed southwards, 600 miles south of the equator. After a year and a half’s absence they found themselves once more in the port of Panama, telling their eager listeners that they had indeed found the land of gold, and they had only come back to fit out a new expedition to go and conquer it.
This story, to me, illustrates what Jesus is saying to his small band of disciples on this night before He faces the cross. He does not want them to be surprised by the difficulties that lay ahead. He wants to make sure that they know what they are getting to so that they will be ready and not turn back from the task before them.
“Father, would you remind me of the glories that lie ahead of me when the tough times come my way. And strengthen me for the calling You have given me as a believer to boldly take the Great Commission into uncharted territories.”
Next Week: John 16:5-16