The true meaning of ‘sacrifice’

Friday July 20, 2018 Written by Published in Church Talk
The example of an agonising situation faced by a train switchman has been used to illustrate the true meaning of the word “sacrifi ce.” 18071919 The example of an agonising situation faced by a train switchman has been used to illustrate the true meaning of the word “sacrifi ce.” 18071919

Sacrifice – one of the definitions from the Oxford Dictionary for the word “sacrifice” include an act of giving up something valued and treasured for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.


Let me try and illustrate the principle of sacrifice with the following story.

There was once a bridge which spanned a large river. During most of the day the bridge sat with its length running up and down the river paralleled with the banks, allowing ships to pass through freely on both sides of the bridge. But at certain times each day, a train would come along and the bridge would be turned sideways across the river, allowing a train to cross it.

A switchman sat in a small shack on one side of the river where he operated the controls to turn the bridge and lock it into place as the train crossed.

One evening as the switchman was waiting for the last train of the day to come, he looked off into the distance through the dimming twilight and caught sight of the train lights. He stepped to the control and waited until the train was within a prescribed distance when he was to turn the bridge.

He turned the bridge into position, but, to his horror, he found the locking control did not work. If the bridge was not securely in position it would wobble back and forth at the ends when the train came onto it, causing the train to jump the track and go crashing into the river. This would be a passenger train with many people aboard.

He left the bridge turned across the river, and hurried across the bridge to the other side of the river where there was a lever switch he could hold to operate the lock manually. He would have to hold the lever back firmly as the train crossed. He could hear the rumble of the train now, and he took hold of the lever and leaned backward to apply his weight to it, locking the bridge. He kept applying the pressure to keep the mechanism locked. Many lives depended on this man's strength.

Then, coming across the bridge from the direction of his control shack, he heard a sound that made his blood run cold. “Daddy, where are you?” His four-year-old son was crossing the bridge to look for him. His first impulse was to cry out to the child, “Run! Run!” But the train was too close; the tiny legs would never make it across the bridge in time. The man almost left his lever to run and snatch up his son and carry him to safety.

But he realised that he could not get back to the lever. Either the people on the train or his little son must die. He took a moment to make his decision. The train sped safely and swiftly on its way, and no one aboard was even aware of the tiny broken body thrown mercilessly into the river by the onrushing train. Nor were they aware of the pitiful figure of the sobbing man, still clinging tightly to the locking lever long after the train had passed.

They did not see him walking home more slowly than he had ever walked: to tell his wife how he had to sacrifice their little son, so that the lives of others would be spared.

Why did this father sacrifice his son for the sake of others?

Now if you can comprehend the emotions which went through this man's heart, you can begin to understand the feelings of our Father in Heaven when He sacrificed His Son to bridge the gap between us and eternal life.

Can there be any wonder that He caused the earth to tremble and the skies to darken when His Son died? How does He feel when we speed along through life without giving a thought to what was done for us through Jesus Christ?

Elder Dallin H Oaks said, “The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ has been called the most transcendent of all events from creation’s dawn to the endless ages of eternity.”

That great sacrifice is the central message of the ancient prophets. Jesus Christ endured incomprehensible suffering to make Himself a sacrifice for the sins of every individual that was, that is and that ever will be.

I am reminded of the words of the hymn penned by Eliza R Snow: “His precious blood he freely spilt; His life he freely gave, a sinless sacrifice for guilt, a dying world to save.

The sacrifice and atonement of Jesus Christ is at the centre of the plan of salvation. Because of the fall of Adam and his transgression in the Garden of Eden it was necessary that we have a saviour to redeem us from our own sins and to save us from the bands of death.

His mighty resurrection provided a way for us to overcome the sting of death and live with him again according to our diligence and our works. With his suffering in Gethsemane and the laying down of his life at Golgotha, and the empty tomb, Jesus Christ through his wonderful and loving atonement and sacrifice provided a way whereby we can be saved and redeemed from our weaknesses and our sins and live with him again.

“For since by man came death, by man came also, the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)                                                                  

 Let us all remember the sacrifice made by our saviour Jesus Christ for each and every one of us. This unselfish act made by a man without sin or blemish provides the path for us to eternal life and exaltation. He has fulfilled his role in the eternal Plan of Happiness; it is up to us to now do our part by obeying his commandments.

Why sacrifice?

Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13)

Like the father in the story who held on to the lever long after the train had gone, like Abraham, who was commanded to sacrifice his only son Isaac, like a soldier who fights for his family and country and freedom, and a loving Heavenly Father who gave his only begotten son as a sacrifice to save the world ... Love is the reason.

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.”  (John 3:16)

            John Mateara

            The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

1 comment

  • Comment Link Richard Hunter Monday, 23 July 2018 13:06 posted by Richard Hunter

    Thank you John for this powerful and moving message, and thank you to the Cook Islands News for publishing it. You lifted my soul today. My prayer is that the wonderful people of the Cook Islands, and the entire world, will truly understand the truths you have shared with us.

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