To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
Moral: So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
~John Godfrey Saxe (Photo credit, link here)
This summer I began reading through the gospels back to back. I've never done that before. Not in the order they appear in the Bible, but John, Mark, Luke, Matthew, I don't even remember why I chose that order. I think going from John to Mark is about as extreme as you can get.
What struck me not far into the second book, was how differently the gospel writers portrayed Jesus. It almost sounded like they were talking about a different person. Sure, there are accounts, parables and teachings that appear multiple times in two or more of the books, but the personality of Jesus seemingly changes between accounts. Don't take my word for it, go read it yourself. In John he's all about love, in Mark, he's extremely passionate, emotional, in Luke more precise and his regard for women evident, in Matthew, maybe here he's the most subversive in his "kingdom" thoughts.
[Why this was a surprise is beyond me. It shouldn't have been, but it was. In an instant I was almost mad at the disservice we render Scripture when we chop it into pieces and microscopically examine the words and their origin, and in the process, rip the life out of it. No cohesiveness...instead extracting a verse or two and studying it to see how "it" applies to our lives, rather than considering it contextually (relative to time, culture and the Scripture in its entirety). ]
And then I remembered the old story of the blind men and an elephant and it made perfect sense. When I put myself in the place of one of the blind men, I could see why God preserved an account from many people to brushstroke a picture of who He is through the life of His son. One perspective wouldn't convey a complete picture. I thought about Tad, how I would describe him as my husband; how our children would describe him as their father; how his parents would describe him as a son; how his brothers would describe him as a brother; how his friends, co-workers, etc. would describe him...it's obvious what I mean. Same person, different perspectives, all telling a part of his story, all absolutely accurate relative to our own experience. But all, very different accounts.
The kids and I are starting all over again, doing the same thing for a morning kind of devotion before school this year. We're reading longer passages of scripture, beginning in Mark. I wonder if they'll see it, if they'll notice (the "differences" in Jesus' personality). I kind of doubt it. There's not a lot of time to think through any of it out loud, I'm not even sure what my "goal" is other than starting the day Godward. I also wonder what it says to them we don't do this on the weekends or over the summer (I'm not sure I want an answer :/). I guess the bottom line is I hope God will kill any agenda of my own, and have His way through the words.
Time will tell....