Prior to his death, Jesus said, “There are many things I’d like to tell you, but you can’t handle it right now.” What new things might he have told them after the resurrection?
Truth is not always something we can accept.
After the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples believed something other than his promise to “lay down his life and raise it again” (John 10:18). After seeing the angels and the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene revealed her truth to Peter and John. “Someone has stolen Jesus’ body” (John 20:2). The disciples thought they were seeing Jesus’ spirit—a ghost—which is understandable since he appeared in their midst without knocking and entering through the door (Luke 24:36). They didn’t believe they were seeing him in the flesh until after he ate fish with them (Luke 24:39–43).
Before his arrest, Jesus predicted his death, burial, and resurrection. Amazed at his miracles and teaching, the disciples had faith in many areas. They had seen people like Lazarus raised from the dead. But after seeing Jesus crucified, the evidence of his death was too strong to believe he could be alive, not even when trusted friends claimed to have seen him. That’s why Jesus spent so much of his post-resurrection days on Earth “showing himself alive by many undeniable proofs” (Acts 1:3–4).
We are very good at embracing what we want to believe.
The Pharisees and teachers of the Law had studied Scripture all their lives, yet they couldn’t accept Jesus (John 5:39–40). Even with the miracles, they wouldn’t believe. Why? They didn’t want to, which explains why Jesus often taught in parables—so they wouldn’t be forced to believe (Matthew 13:13).
After Samuel Shenton established the Flat Earth Society in 1971, he had to address the satellite images that showed Earth as a sphere. “It’s easy to see,” he said, “how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.”
Denying the truth is easy. It simply requires that we believe something else.
When we don’t want to admit we’re wrong, a lie becomes our truth. Others may see our belief as a lie. God always knows when we’ve been deceived by others or by ourselves, but we can’t see it—which explains why we need to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, who will “guide us into all truth” (John 16:13).
The truth can be painful.
Studies have indicated that people will expend more effort to avoid pain than to pursue pleasure. We must believe the reward is greater than the cost, or we won’t make the sacrifice.
In the movie A Few Good Men, defense attorney Lieutenant Kaffee (Tom Cruise) asks for the truth. In response, Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) is famous for saying, “You can’t handle the truth.” Why not?
With knowledge comes responsibility, and we’re not always ready to pay the price. Olympic athletes sacrifice their bodies in training to an extent that seems insane to most people, but not to them (1 Corinthians 9:25). Why? Because they believe the potential reward justifies the cost.
Scripture says we won’t approach God unless we believe the reward justifies the sacrifice (Hebrews 11:6). This is a painful truth because Jesus says we can’t be his disciple unless we’re willing to give up everything, even our lives (Luke 14:26–27).
Jesus’ disciples had given up their businesses and families to follow Jesus, but Peter had doubts about the reward. So Jesus assured him of a hundred-fold benefit in this life and eternal life to come (Mark 10:29–30).
The disciples thought they were ready to die for Jesus (Matthew 26:35), but they weren’t. At the time of Jesus’ arrest, they scattered like “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 14:27).
We need God’s help with what we can’t handle right now.
Fear gripped the hearts of the disciples, which is understandable. Religious leaders crucified Jesus and issued a death warrant for Lazarus (John 12:10). We know John was at the cross. But apparently Peter kept his distance, and the other disciples fled.
After the Day of Pentecost, we see a remarkable change in the disciples who tarried in Jerusalem and waited for the promised Holy Spirit. No longer did they fear for their lives, but they boldly preached the message of Jesus Christ, thankful to be counted worthy to suffer for his name (Acts 5:41).
The truth they couldn’t handle before was now something they could accept. Their relationship with Jesus was something worth dying for. With the help of the Holy Spirit, they believed the reward justified the sacrifice, even unto death (Revelation 12:11).
In the movie A Few Good Men, Lieutenant Kaffee asks for the truth.