The ruins of the ancient Moche people rise out of the arid, sandy mountainside along the coast of northern Peru. Here, our team climbed the steep, dry slopes to get a view of the Moche temple dated between 100 and 700 AD. The temple- called the Temple of the Sun- remains eerily preserved with brilliant paintings, faded, yet intact, despite time and the elements of sand, sun and wind.
We walked softly through winding passageways, up crumbling stairs and across vast open rooms where people once bustled to and fro in their acts of service to their gods. The Moche were polytheists and worshipped the gods they believed lived within the mountain that loomed above the temple.
An inner room revealed the area where humans were kept for days before they were sacrificed to the gods. These people were given mind-altering plants as they were tortured. Our group stood quietly, shoulder to shoulder, envisioning what acts of horror must have taken place within this quiet room. Most of us were medical professionals or students, well-versed in human suffering, well acquainted with psychiatric illness or the effects of chemically-induced psychoses.
Archeologists have found hundreds of skeletal remains within the Moche region. The human sacrifices range from infant to elderly, from male to female. The experts can’t seem to agree on who these people were- slaves? prisoners from battle? commoners? Does it really matter?
Just recently, even more remains were unearthed along the Peruvian coast. These 140 children were found buried together in a mass grave dating back to the late 1400s during the Chimú civilization. Most of the children were between the ages of 8-12 years and had cuts to the sternum and rib bone, suggesting that their hearts were removed in some form of religious rite.
I read the news reports of the Chimú findings and instantly recalled my visit to the Temple of the Sun. What kind of god requires human sacrifice? What kind of priest demands his people follow through with such atrocities? What about the mothers that stood nearby as their children cried in terror?
Truth, once distorted in the smallest way, becomes untruth…becomes evil. When the serpent tempted Eve in the garden, he used half- truths.
Ye shall not surely die: he hissed. No. Not physically, that was true, but spiritual death is a fate much worse than physical death.
And so it began–a sacrifice needed; a spotless lamb slain. Time and again, blood shed over and over and over as man attempted to atone for his sin. As man watched for the Lamb to come and offer Himself as that final sacrifice. Fathers listened to the priests repeat the story of the Lamb. Mothers whispered the truths to their children by candlelight. The world waited…
…and in true sin-sick fashion, man created his own method of atonement. Truths shifted. The lambs weren’t spotless. The priests were corrupted. And the sacrifices made to atone the sins of the people became the people themselves.
Blood must be shed. Someone must pay the price. The Moche knew this, but what they didn’t know, what the Chimú hadn’t heard, or refused to hear, was that the price was already paid. As those children were murdered and disfigured in vain, as their parents watched in horror, Jesus Christ Himself surely wept at the irony of it all.
Peru is no longer a country marked by literal human sacrifices made to appease gods in the mountains. Peru is independent and progressive and yet, many are still waiting to hear that the price was already paid.
Medical Missions Outreach works closely with Jesus and Tracy Altuna, missionaries along the Peruvian coastline who have given their lives to tell their people about the Lamb that came for redemption. The truth must go forth, uncorrupted and pure. The truth is that Jesus died for you.