History has shown time and again that advancing a kingdom isn’t an easy task. The endeavor demands many resources: soldiers, money, supplies, and time. But the greatest commodity of all is commitment.
Hernando Cortez, the famous Spanish Conquistador, knew that better than anyone else.
Before he turned 30, the young Spaniard had already served as an aide to the Governor of Cuba and also as Captain-General of the military expedition to bring the entire island under Spanish rule. Time and again, Cortez proved himself to be a man who was willing to risk his life for fame…and fortune. Because of his zeal, he quickly established himself as a man of influence in the newly discovered West Indies.
But by the summer of 1519, Cortez had set his sights on a brand new target: Mexico. Against his governor’s orders, Cortez gathered a few horses and cannons, about 500 men, and a fleet of 11 ships, and hastily set sail for a land he knew to be laden with gold.
As soon as he set foot on the beaches of Mexico, Cortez realized how desperate his situation was. Ahead of him lay Montezuma and his fierce Aztec warriors; behind him would soon be another fleet of Spanish Conquistadors sent by the superior whose orders he spurned.
Cortez knew what he had to do, and he didn’t waste a moment doing it. As soon as his men and supplies were off the boats and safely ashore, Cortez ordered every ship to be run aground in the shallow waters near the beach!
The boats he scuttled were the same ones that had brought them to Mexico; more importantly, these were the vessels that were supposed to take them home! But Cortez also knew that the boats provided his men with a mental “safety net” of retreat. Though no Conquistador would dare say it, many knew that if the fighting became too dire, they could always retreat to the boats and return to Cuba.
In one of the boldest gambles in military history, Cortez deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat! There would be no turning back…because there was no means of escape! Without a backup plan, every soldier knew there was nothing left for them to do but commit to conquering Mexico and advancing Spain’s Empire.
History tells us that’s exactly what they did.
In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus said that same unwavering commitment was required to follow Him and advance the Kingdom of God on Earth:
As they were walking along the road, a man said to Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
For Cortez, there was no looking back or retreat. Neither should there be any looking back or retreat amongst Christ’s disciples.
Hernan Cortes: Conquistador in Mexico by John Wilkes. Cambridge University Press, 1977, Page 19.
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(Resource catalogued by David R Smith)