Relaying the Message

Speed and reliability are important to effective communication. This is not a new concept brought to us by modern technology. The communication system of the ancient Inca Empire is a prime example of this.

From the early 1400s until 1533 A.D., the Inca controlled a vast stretch of land across South America, from Colombia in the north to Chile in the south. Incan communication was so efficient that when the Spaniards arrived, one Spanish chronicler wrote, “The Incas invented a system of posts that was the best of what could be thought or imagined . . . the news could not have been transmitted through a greater speed with speedy horses.” At the heart of this system were the Chasquis, official messengers who carried communications over a carefully engineered network of roads covering a distance of 25,000 miles. Twenty-five runners could cover about 150 miles in a single day.

The Chasquis were carefully selected from childhood and prepared for the demands of the job. They were required to be quick on their feet and strong swimmers. They had to have athletic bodies with strong lungs and legs and to have a good knowledge of the road system and its shortcuts.

These messengers did far more than pass communication bulletins. The Chasquis were trained to be able to read and translated the messages to their relay partner and to higher authorities. They carried a small personal bag that contained a few light objects, including a khipu (accounting system made of knots), which was used for remembering and communicating the message, and a shell trumpet they used to announce their arrival. The messages were memorized and then repeated to the next runner during the relay. Sometimes a runner would continue running with the relief runner in order to repeat the message until the new messenger could recite it accurately.

This efficient system of communication is both similar to and different from the way God has shared His message throughout history. In the book of Hebrews, Paul writes, “At many times and in various ways” God has spoken, but “in the last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Like the Inca, God has relayed His messages down through the ages through messengers. However, when Jesus came to live among us, God became the message in flesh and blood. In the same way that Jesus came and became one of us, He is inviting us to go and not only relay His message accurately, but to live it out as we make disciples of all nations.

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