“When Every Second Counts”: A story of self-sacrifice


The story of Aron Ralston climbing through a canyon one day in 2003 was made into an Academy-award nominated movie. Aron was an experienced outdoorsman and confident of his wilderness skills. Perhaps too confident. Aron only planned to be out canyoning just for the day, and so he didn’t think it was necessary to tell anyone where he was going. 

Aron would soon regret that mistake when a boulder came loose while he was descending into a  narrow crevice. The large rock tumbled down and crushed Aron’s right hand against the canyon wall.

Aron spent the next five days unsuccessfully trying to move the 360kg boulder from his arm. He stayed alive by sipping on the small amount of water he had and slowly rationing the snacks he’d brought along for his day-trip.

By the fifth day, Aron Ralston scratched his name and date into the rock – assuming that would be his last day alive. In addition, he made a short video of himself with his camera, saying goodbye to his family. Aron didn’t expect to survive the coming cold night. 

During that night Ralston drifted towards death. He began to hallucinate and had a vision of himself playing with some future yet-to-be-born son. In his dream Aron had part of his right arm missing.

When he woke, alive, the next morning – Aron knew what he need to do in order to survive. The trapped outdoorsman began to cut his own arm off with a small, blunt knife he had in his kitbag. Without any anaesthetic and after 127 hours of being trapped, Aron Ralston hacked through his own skin, flesh, tendons, and bone to free himself. He then rappelled down a twenty metre wall one handed, and then walked ten kilometres out of the canyon. By the time he reached safety he had lost a quarter of his body’s blood.

Aron was crippled for life, but he was alive. A few years later Aron would be the father of a child he feels he dreamed about on the final night when he was trapped by the rock. This incredible story of survival was made into a Hollywood movie called “127 Hours”.


The story of Aron Ralston has some parallels to the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth, although the major difference in the biblical story of redemption is that Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t free himself but instead frees us.

Let me explain: our Creator knew humanity was trapped by a metaphorical boulder called sin. No matter what we try we can’t free ourselves from the death our sins ultimately bring us. So, in order for us to truly live, Jesus came in human form – and in the process cut off a piece of His own divinity. 

Our Creator actually cut off a piece of Himself in order to rescue you and me – and His body shall forever show the scars of this sacrifice. 

The Apostle Paul understood this sacrifice when he penned the famous words: “Though Jesus was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to keep. Instead, Jesus cut off his divine privileges. He took the humble position of a servant and was born a human – and became obedient to death, even death on a cross – so you and I might truly live.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Hollywood remembered the 127 hours Aron Ralston endured in a lonely canyon – and his sacrificial actions to survive – by making a movie. Even more so we should remember the sacrifice Christ made for us on a lonely hill called Calvary. As His children, we shall one day meet face-to-face the Father who sacrificed so much. It’s our Redeemer’s sacrifice that allows us to live this life free from the heavy stone of sin. 

It’s by His blood we can live eternally.



About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and he lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

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Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this “Reverential Ramblings” series? Click here to read the strange story of how one orchestra member saved his colleagues from the wild temper tantrums of their world-famous conductor

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