Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
A group of four blind men heard that a strange creature wandered into their town. None of them knew anything about its shape or form. Out of curiosity, they said: “Let’s go and inspect this creature and try to figure out what it is.” So, they sought it out, and when they found it, they started to grope about it with their hands. The first blind man felt something and said, “The creature must be like a tree because it is large and round like a pillar.” The second man replied, “Actually, the creature is like a rope because it is small and coarse.” The third man contradicted the others and said, “No, no, the creature is like a fan because it is flat and thin.” The fourth man was confused and said, “The creature is not like any of those. It is like a thick snake because it is long and curves.”
This parable is used by many to try to resolve the conflict between different religions. The creature is an elephant, and each one of the blind men had drastically different descriptions of the elephant because they were all feeling other parts. So, some claim that they were all correct. The elephant has all the features described by the four blind men. In the analogy, the elephant is God, and the blind men represent different religions in their attempt to describe the unseen God. Some claim that no religion has the whole truth, only part of it.
That parable tells us why many people today no longer accept the claims of Christianity, especially the claim to be the one true religion. We live in a multi-cultural melting pot here in Canada. Our cities have a variety of religious views: Christians, Jews, and Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs, and those who are just vaguely spiritual and not religious. In other words, Jesus is presented today as one of many equally valid options, depending on your preferences and lifestyle choice. Jesus is merely another blind man with only part of the truth. But, is Jesus of Nazareth simply one option among many in the path to God? With so many voices, who are we to believe? How can we be sure that what Christianity claims about Jesus is true?
God has testified on behalf of Jesus
Our epistle lesson starts by contrasting two different testimonies—the testimony of humanity and the testimony of God himself. Think of a courtroom scene. There are two witnesses in the dock, each with a contradictory testimony.
The testimony of men is like the testimony of the blind men about the elephant. And this shows us where that parable goes wrong. The four blind men are not all correct, but they are all wrong. The elephant is not like a tree, a rope, a fan, or a snake. It’s completely different from all of those things, and it’s the same with God. It is not that all religions are describing various aspects of the same thing. They are instead FAILING to explain what God actually is. Their blindness makes them unable to see the truth about the elephant. The blind men will always fall short in their descriptions; they will never have the complete picture. And, since we are all spiritually blind, we will never recognize which reports are accurate or mistaken.
The spiritualities and religions of the world have nothing to confirm or corroborate them but human testimony. They may have experts, scholars, scientists and gurus, imams and rabbis, and everything in between. But at the end of the day, they’re all just blind men. They are just people like you and me. All they can make their case on are the thoughts of other blind men. They may use reason, philosophy, or mystical experience to support their claims. But, ultimately, if it’s just someone’s opinion, and if we’re just as spiritually blind as they are then, why should we care?
That’s why Jesus says that he does not accept human testimony, but only the testimony that God the Father gives (John 5:34, 37). Think back to the story, what if there was a fifth man who came on the scene? But, the fifth man was different. What if the fifth man was not blind but could see clearly? What if he was an expert in elephants. He could tell us that it is not a tree, a rope, a fan, or a snake, but an elephant. We would trust that man’s knowledge about the elephant instead of the blind men. The fifth man could help us, as blind men, to rightly describe the elephant. Jesus is the fifth man. While our unaided descriptions of God will fall as short as a blind man’s description of an elephant, Jesus has given us actual knowledge of God. Jesus is the only one who can provide a trustworthy description because He is God. He’s the very Son of God, sent from God into the world.
How do we know that what Jesus said and taught about God is true? The claims of Jesus are not validated by mere human opinion. The testimony of God himself validates his claims. God is the one who has demonstrated his approval for Jesus and has done so by acting in history. What Jesus of Nazareth did, said, and taught about God is the truth that God himself has confirmed. God raised Jesus from the dead on the Third Day and received him back into Heaven 40 days later. As St. Paul said in Athens, “Now God commands all people everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this, he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
God, and not just humans, has testified and given witness to his Son Jesus Christ. God’s testimony is far greater than any human opinion. To deny the truth that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Son in the flesh is to deny God’s testimony is true. It’s like the four blind men calling the fifth man who can see a liar. When we ignore, write off, or deny God’s testimony to Jesus, we do not silence God but rather treat him as a perjurer. To claim that there are many paths to God and that all religions are somehow true is to deny Christ, call God a liar, and cuts us off from the very source of life.
The Testimony is that God has given us Eternal Life
The testimony God gives about hi Son is that through Jesus, God has given us eternal life. What is eternal life? Have you ever asked that question? Eternal life is not the same thing as living forever. When the Bible uses the phrase “eternal life,” it is not referring to how long you’re going to live. It’s not talking about the quantity of life; it’s talking about the quality. It is the kind of life that we will experience in the New Heavens and New Earth. It is a life free from pain, suffering, death, darkness, and disappointment. We get to have a share in the same kind of life as God himself has! Eternal life is the quality of life that we will have in after the Resurrection.
Now, John has a fantastic point to make. God has given his solemn testimony that eternal life is not simply a future thing that we experience only after the Resurrection of the Dead. No, Eternal Life is your possession right here and right now. You already possess eternal life. You don’t have all of it. What you have now is the first instalment, the first down payment of something far more significant. You are given a trailer, a sampling of that life that you will experience fully after the resurrection. And this is only possible through Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus the Messiah is the source of that eternal life. Eternal life is only found in him. No one, neither Buddha, nor Mohamed, nor Moses have defeated death. Quite the opposite, death still has them under its power. As wise or spiritual as some may think they are, they are still just as blind and just as dead as the rest of us. Not so Jesus. God gave his testimony to the world by raising Jesus on the third day and receiving him back into Heaven. This gift of Eternal Life comes from God through the cross and the empty tomb. Christ has defeated death itself because death and the grave could not hold him. In him, we find the source of that eternal life. We can find no other source.
Our job is to tell those groping around blindly in this world that someone has come and revealed the whole picture. What Jesus of Nazareth tells us about God can be found in no other place. His is the true and complete self-revelation of God. We cannot find God in ourselves, our own good works, other religions, or any lesser form of spirituality. The claims of Christianity are not corroborated by mere human opinion. They have received the very testimony of God. God himself has acted in history in raising Christ from the dead. What the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus do for us, we cannot do for ourselves. In Christ, there is a new kind of life, the life of eternity, free from sin, death, and suffering. We have that eternal life here and now as a down payment of good things to come.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, and guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen