|The Christ-Bearer ....||Bob Moore|
In the twelfth century, before the Reformation began, a famous missionary by the name of Ramon Lull preached Christ in northern Africa. Although once Christian, that territory had forsaken the gospel many generations before and became Islamic. Ramon had come to that land to win its people back to Christ. While he was preaching in Bougie, a port city in what is now Algiers, the natives carried him to the beach where they stoned him and left him to die. Two merchants from Genoa, Italy happened to be in the same city on business. Having concluded it, they were walking on the beach while waiting to board their ship. They found Ramon still alive. Because he was known throughout the Christian world, these merchants recognized him and took him on board. On their way back to Italy, a storm drove the ship off course until it came near the island of Ramon's birth. Thinking that the sight of his homeland might encourage him, for Ramon was miraculously still alive, they carried him on deck and raised him so that he could see over the rail. After viewing his native terrain, he lifted his arm, pointing it westward, and with the last breath of his mouth said, "Beyond the seas that wash this land is another land whose natives know not God. Send men there." Then he died. When the merchants returned to Genoa, one of them told the story of Ramon Lull and his prophecy over and over to his children and grandchildren. That man was Stephen Columbus, grandfather of Christopher Columbus.
Christopher means "Christ-bearer." Ramon's prophecy underpinned what Columbus became. Even his name bore his divine mission. His goal was to take the name of Christ to a people across the sea. He envisioned the possibility of sailing westward from the coasts of Europe to another land, where he would find remnants of the lost tribes of Israel (Simon Wiesenthal, Sails of Hope, p 61) He conceived this thought during the time his culture taught that the earth was flat. A westward trip was thought to bring a ship and its occupants to the edge of the world, where they would suddenly meet death as they fell off. But Christopher believed the prophecy of Ramon Lull. He believed the Scriptures, too. He quoted Isaiah in his journal, particularly that which said, "Listen O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; unto the end of the earth." (Is 49:1,6). Columbus felt these words were directed at him. He believed the Lord had designated him to take the message of Christ to the ends of the earth . God had even created a way for him to go to them. Isaiah records, "Thus saith the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters" (Is 43:16). Claiming inspiration from the Almighty, Christopher Columbus maintained that there was a route through the ocean leading to natives who needed to learn of Christ. He recorded these thoughts in his journal, writing, "It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel his hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvelous inspiration from the Holy Scriptures."
Columbus took his plan for sailing across the western ocean to the European kings. In return for financing his expedition, he promised a shorter route to the Indies than what was then available. The nation underwriting his discovery would have a big advantage in the race to provide Europe with goods from the East. The resulting wealth they could accumulate would be staggering. No one seemed seriously interested, although the project was widely discussed. In the end only King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain agreed to help him, and that was only at the insistence of Isabella. She had been engaged in converting the Jews throughout Spain to Christ, often under the threat of torture. At the same time their army had been pushing the Moslem Moors back out of Spain into Africa. With these two religious goals almost accomplished, a mission to the Indies appealed more to her than a quest for gold and trade. Her interest caused the king to supply the necessary funds. On August 3, 1492, Columbus led three small ships out of their Spanish port on a mission to discover and convert lost Israel to Christ.
As the weeks passed into a second month and the vast size of the ocean already traversed increased, the restlessness of the crews on all three ships grew. They had heard how others had failed in their attempt to sail westward, fighting head winds and being forced back to their ports. Some of these ships had wrecked. Columbus assured his men their trip was different. Previous explorers had tried to cross below the Tropic of Cancer, but the winds in that region blew from west to east, making a long western voyage impossible. God had shown him a path through the sea, north of the Tropic of Cancer, where the winds blew from east to west. He wrote in his journal, "For the execution of the journey to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied."
The spiritual assurance uplifting and directing Columbus did not quiet the crew. The presence of an eastern wind did not mean land was ahead. They began to grumble. At first they joked about throwing their captain overboard and returning home, but as time lengthened the mood became more somber. They were ready to make demands. The captains of the other two ships met on the night of October 9. Columbus persuaded them to give him three more days. If at the end of that time they had not found land, he would allow them to turn back. In his prayers that night he must have fervently pled with the God that had not only inspired him to undertake the trip, but who had brought him so far toward its completion, by asking divine assistance in helping him finish the journey within the few days he had left. His prayer was heard. The next day the ships made an amazing 59 leagues, almost doubling the previous day's output. On the second day they sighted a small twig with roses on it and at night saw a tiny light in the far distance. On the third day before sunrise, the crew of the Pinta sighted land, a low white cliff shining in the moonlight. They turned toward it. On the morning of the third day, October 12, 1492, Columbus landed on San Salvador.
While Spain, in its thirst for gold, along with other nations, quickly began to overrun the land Columbus found, and although Columbus himself was too strongly motivated by the wealth he uncovered, his discovery of the American continents was, from beginning to end, a religious event. God revealed their existence, inspired the thought of their discovery and, even, propelled the ships so that the New World could be found. The revelation given through Ramon Lull had found fulfillment with Christopher Columbus. The missionary's words had been the foundation for the explorer's life. Of Jewish descent, he was chosen and used by God to discover the way for the Gentiles to bring the gospel of Christ to America and spread it among the people scattered on its land, so that at the proper time they could be gathered to their Savior. His dedication to this purpose and the extent of his devotion is revealed in his journal. He wrote, "No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service. The working out of all things has been assigned to each person by our Lord, but it all happens according to His sovereign will, even though He gives advice. He lacks nothing that it is in the power of men to give Him. Oh, what a gracious Lord, who desires that people should perform for Him those things for which He holds Himself responsible!"