Lillian Quigley, in her children’s book, The Blind Men and the Elephant, recounts the famous fable of six blind men who encounter an elephant for the first time. In the story each man touches a part of the elephant and draws his own conclusion of what an elephant is like.
The first blind man put out his hand and touched the side of the elephant. “How smooth! An elephant is like a wall.” The second blind man extended his hand and felt the elephant’s trunk. “How round! An elephant is like a snake.” The third blind man touched the tusk and exclaimed “How sharp! An elephant is like a spear.” The fourth blind man touched the leg of the elephant. “How tall! An elephant is like a tree.” The fifth blind man felt the elephant’s ear, “How wide! An elephant is like a fan.” The sixth blind man touched the tail and said, “How thin! An elephant is like a rope.
Our verse of the week is John 8:32 where Jesus proclaimed, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
The ancient parable of the blind men and the elephant has been used by Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus to “prove” that every faith, philosophy and religion is just one part of the larger truth about God. In more modern times this fable has been told to illustrate that truth is relative. That each person has a right to perceive what is truth from his personal experience.
A second point often made by skeptics is that faith in God is so limited that we can’t really know who He is. We are blinded by our cultural beliefs. Personal experiences. And Western heritage.
Briefly there a few things wrong with this analogy that incorrectly apply this fable. First, the six men are blind! They can’t see the elephant! They are basically limited by their sense of touch.
Secondly, the elephant can’t speak! If he could, he could tell the men something about himself and enlighten their understanding.
Thirdly, the fable “proves” nothing! It’s only an illustration used to make an assertion. And a false one at that!
In John 8:32, Jesus provides clarity. Insight. And understanding. There are three key words to consider.
(1) Know. There are some things we can know. God has not left us to blindly grope in search of Him. He has revealed Himself in the book of nature. Indeed “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1) External evidence that we can see leaves us without excuse that there is a God! (Rom. 1:20).
The word “know” is used by John 94 times to affirm that we can know God. Know Jesus. Know the Scripture. Know the Truth. Saul, a persecutor of Christians, was blinded on the Damascus road. After having an encounter with Christ, he said, “I know in whom I have believed!”
(2) Truth. Today’s culture denies there is such a thing as absolute truth. Philosophers and liberal Theologians say, “Truth is relative.”
Really? Try that with a scientist sending a rocket in space. Or an accountant charged with keeping books. Or a Pharmacist filling a physician’s prescription. They will all tell you that truth is exact. Narrow. And precise.
In His prayer to the Father Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). God’s Word is Truth. It is unchanging. Unbending. Unbowed.
(3) Free. Jesus’ Jewish audience disputed His claim by saying, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus’ response? “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Ironically, the Jews were blinded to the truth. They had been in bondage! Israel was enslaved by Assyria. Judah was taken captive by Babylon. And at the very time Jesus spoke, all of Palestine was in bondage to Rome!
Jesus, however, was talking about a different kind of freedom. Real freedom is not political, social or financial. Real Freedom is spiritual. One may throw off the bonds of a tyrannical dictator, but be shackled to sin and in the clutches of that spiritual tyrant, the devil.
But Jesus promises freedom. Freedom from sin’s guilt. Freedom from sin’s enslavement. Freedom from sin’s shame. Freedom from sin’s sentence.
Today we can know Truth. And we can be free! Free Indeed!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman